Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asterales - Family: Campanulaceae
Some people refer to this wildflower as Sheep's-bit Scabious, but it is not closely related to true scabious species such as Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, which belong to the Honeysuckle family Caprifoliaceae.
This low-growing biennial has a basal rosette of narrow, pointed leaves from which arise slender stems bearing blue scabious-like compound inflorescences each comprising 50 to 200 tiny tubular campanulate flowers.
Sheep's-bit is common in Britain and Ireland; it also occurs on mainland Europe, becoming increasingly scarce towards the northern part of Scandinavia and similarly the southern extent is limited to south-central Europe. The range extends eastwards into western Asia; elsewhere, including North America, it is an introduction.
This low-growing member of the Bellflower family prefers dry places. It is particularly common on clifftops and heaths, where it copes well with strong winds. Sheep's-bit favours acid soils and is so absent from calcareous substrates.
The first flowers appear in May and blooming continues into September. Sheep's-bit is usually at its best from late June until early August.
Sheep's-bit is sometimes confused with Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, a somewhat coarser but otherwise similar wildflower. The leaves of Sheep's-bit are long and narrow, while those of Devil's-bit Scabious are more oval. Although so similar in appearance these two wildflowers come from different families: Devil's-bit Scabious belongs to the Teasel family - Dipsacaceae.
The specimens shown on this page were photographed on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in spring.
We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...