Scabiosa atropurpurea L.

Fully hardy, erect, wiry-stemmed biennial or short-lived perennial, often grown as an annual, somewhat variable with solitary, fragrant, dark purple to lilac flower heads in summer.  To 90cm.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The Sweet Scabious has long and deservedly held a place as an ornamental plant in our gardens, the flowrs are well adapted for nosegays, have a sweet musky smell, and are produced in geat profusion from June to October.’  [BM t.247/1793].  According to Don introduced to Britain in 1629.  He describes ‘a great variation in their colour, some being of a purple, approaching to black, others of a pale purple, some red, some white, others variegated.  It varies also in the leaves, some being more finely cut than others.’  

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [H.210/1843].  By 1846 Macarthur was growing improved varieties of Scabious.  On 8th April 1846 he ordered ‘Splendid Scabious’ seed of German origin, 8 varieties, from James Carter, Seedsman and Florist, High Holborn.  [MP A2933-1, p.128].


Published Feb 03, 2009 - 04:53 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2010 - 05:36 PM

Depicted are the deeply cut leaves, purple pincushion flowers and seed head.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.247, 1793.

Scabiosa atropurpurea L. | BM t.247/1793 | BHL

More details about Scabiosa atropurpurea L.
Family Dipsacaceae
Region of origin


Common Name

Pincushion flower, Sweet scabious, Mournful widow

Name in the Camden Park Record

Scabiosa atropurpurea 

Confidence level high