12 September 2012

A late bite

Every year, when doing the hay cut we leave a percentage of the meadows uncut, to act as a refuge and continuing nectar supply for insects. We leave different areas uncut each year so they do not scrub over.
At Martin's meadows this year,  the uncut  area  is in the part of the meadow where Devil's bit scabious  - Succisa pratensis is particularly abundant.

The reason why this late summer flowering plant is known  as Devil's bit is not entirely clear with the various explanations having been lost  or changed in the telling through the years. However, there is a common theme relating to the belief that the very shallow, short rootstock of the plant had been bitten off by the devil - either because eating it gave the devil increased power, or because the devil envied the plant's virtue and beauty so tried to destroy it at the root.

Of course it is not always known as Devil's bit. There are many other local names for it  that reflect it's flower and flower bud shape such as Batchelor's buttons, Blue buttons, Blue bonnets and Blue caps and an East Anglian name for it is Curl Doddy (meaning curly head) according to Geoffrey Grigson's - The Englishman's Flora.

Whatever name the plant is known by,  it is certainly adds a late summer charm to the meadow and is a great late season nectar source for insects fuelling up before autumn and winter.

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