While its name may have unfortunate origins, it doesn’t detract from its delicate overall beauty, popular with butterflies and home growers.
Native to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caucasus, Scabiosa includes around 70 species of small annual and perennial herbaceous plants that belong to the Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle) family. These plants are mainly recognized by their unique appearance and genus name.
Scabiosa is derived from the Latin word “scabere“, which means itching in relation to the rough leaves of the plant, which are said to cure scurvy.
Also known as ‘Butterfly Blue’, Scabiosis is a compact perennial that grows typically to only 12-15 inches tall. The long and profuse flowers bloom from late spring until frost.
The flowers (2″ in diameter) have an outer ring of flat, frilly, lavender-blue petals and a lighter arched central cushion with protruding stamens (similar to the needles of a pincushion).
The flowers bloom individually on rigid stalks. Scabiosis produces 2-inch (5 cm) fragrant flower heads in blue, purple, pink, white, or deep mahogany purple. It has finely cut grayish-green basal leaves.
Common names are starflower pincushion, Egyptian bride, mournful widow, mourning bride, pincushion flower, and sweet scabious.