Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - GROW YOUR OWN -

A friend posted a photo on Face­book of a big bunch of scabi­ous flow­ers freshly picked in her gar­den. She loved this pretty peren­nial plant, she wrote, and en­joyed all the colours she’d amassed from pale mauve and pink to bur­gundy and choco­late, but de­spaired at the plant’s ugly name of scabi­ous.

The ori­gin of this par­tic­u­lar com­mon name and its genus Scabiosa is as un­com­fort­able as it sounds. It comes from the Latin “sca­bies” re­fer­ring to mange or scurf. But it isn’t named be­cause its flow­ers cause a skin ir­ri­ta­tion. Rather, ac­cord­ing to folk­lore, rub­bing the leaves of scabi­ous on the skin was thought to al­le­vi­ate ir­ri­ta­tion. If the name of­fends the good news is that this plant has a pret­tier com­mon name although it too sounds a bit prickly. Its other name is pincushion from the ap­pear­ance of the blooms.

A frilly fringe of petals around a mounded cen­tre of small flow­ers cre­ates the look of granny’s pincushion. The only draw­back is that other un­re­lated plants use the com­mon name of pincushion.

Look for scabi­ous (or pincushion if you pre­fer) in flower now at the nurs­ery. This low-grow­ing peren­nial en­joys sun or a bit of shade, flow­ers pro­fusely from spring to au­tumn and is trou­ble free.

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