SCABIOSA OR PINCUSHION?
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.