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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Scabious (Scabiosa incise)

Family Dipsacaceae
Description
A fast-growing perennial, it forms a number of stems on the ground, which turn slightly woody with age at the base. The finely divided leaves form opposite each other along the lower part of the stems. The older leaves at the bottom of the stem turn brown and fall off as new fresh green leaves are formed. The soft leaves are slightly hairy at the top and bottom. The beautiful flowers are formed on long, naked stems from early spring to the middle of summer (September-December). The straggling stems vary in height but can stand up to 430 mm high with a single flowerhead at the tip. A closer look at a e flower reveals individual flowers that are crowded together to form dense, flattened flowerheads. The looser flowers along the outside have longer petals that form a frilly edge, whereas the flowers in the centre are much smaller and compact to form a tight button effect. After flowering, the seeds are formed in interesting rounded bristleheads, that slowly fall apart as the seeds ripen and are ready to be blown away by the wind.

 Distribution

Scabiosa incisa occurs naturally in the coastal sands from Piketberg to Grahamstown. The best-known locality for Scabiosa incisa is at Bokbaai, a farm along the West Coast, from where one has the most beautiful views of Table Mountain across the bay. Here S. incisa grows in deep sands between the coastal scrub. The winter rainfall along this part of the coast is between 50-300 mm a year. S. incisa from Bokbaai is a particularly big form with large, mauve flowers. A number of other beautiful forms are grown at Kirstenbosch. Scabiosa incisa 'White Carpet' has a smaller white flower which in early summer form a cloud of white above a lush carpet of tight green foliage.

Uses

In South Africa the widely distributed Scabiosa columbaria (or rice flower) is the wild scabious most commonly used as a traditional medicine by different African tribes, but S. incisa is also used to make a dusting powder and wound lotion. It is, however, mostly valued as a good cut flower and beautiful garden plant.