Monday 22 July 2013

Sorting out the Scabious

To the casual observer Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria and Field Scabious Knautia arvensis appear to be identical. What's more, here in the Touraine, at any rate, they grow side by side, so on some sites you really do have to check every plant to know what you've got. My observation is that Field Scabious is by far the more common species, probably at the level of about 100 to 1.

Small Scabious stem leaves.
Both are very popular with nectar feeding insects - beetles, flies and leps especially. They grow in amongst the rank natural grassland. Field Scabious is not choosy about soil type, so long as the site is dry, but Small Scabious likes limestone 'underfoot'. Both are in flower from July to September, and both have pale lilac to lavender flower heads.

Field Scabious stem leaves.
Fortunately there are a couple of really easy ways to tell the two species apart if you take the time to look.
  • stem leaves with fine rather soft lobes - Small; stem leaves rough, rather stiff and with thick toothy lobes - Field.
  • individual flowers with 5 lobes - Small; individual flowers with 4 lobes - Field.

Field Scabious flower head.
Additionally, the basal leaves (often hidden in the surrounding long grass) are divided and end in a spoon shaped lobe for the Small Scabious, but are pointed and undivided for the Field Scabious. Small Scabious is a generally more delicate plant, with slightly smaller flower heads and finer stems and leaves.

Small Scabious flower head.
Don't confuse with Devils-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, which has evenly sized flowers and undivided stem leaves.

Devil's-bit Scabious
The Scabious are all members of the Teasel family Dipsacaceae, so don't confuse them either with members of the Bellflower family Campanulaceae such as Round-headed Rampion Phyteuma tenerum, which grows on the same limestone sites; or Sheep's-bit Jasione montana, in the acid sand of the Sologne. Round-headed Rampion has deep blue threadlike flowers in a globular head, Sheep's-bit is sky blue, short and with undivided wavy edged leaves. And then there is Common Globularia Globularia vulgaris...
New Orchard Orchid:  Meet the newest member of the Orchard Orchid Team -- the Broad-leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine. They have a reputation for turning up out of the blue in all sorts of places, even quite urban environments.
A la cuisine hier: Limoncello, Lemon and Blueberry Cloud Cake -- wowee! What a taste sensation! It would adapt well to being GF and is not dissimilar to my Chocolate Chestnut Soufflé Cake, but somewhat less trouble and better behaved. Blueberries and citrus make a great combo. The remaining 800 g of blueberries from my little pick-your-own outing are now in the freezer, awaiting further culinary adventures.

1.6 l of sour cherry / redcurrant juice is macerating in the fridge with an equal quantity of sugar for a couple of days, prior to being boiled up to jam temperature.

Tomates farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes) -- a classic French summer dish. I also stuffed some large button mushrooms and made some meat balls, all cooked together in the oven while I slow roasted a few tomatoes. I bought the mushrooms from the Dutch guy at Loches market who grows button and oyster mushrooms in a cave. So much better quality than supermarket mushrooms.

32 chicken thighs are swimming in an olive oil, lemon juice and cumin based marinade, ready for tomorrow's birthday party.


GaynorB said...

Wish we were able to be there.....;O(

Enjoy those chicken thighs!

Great pics and info.Will look out for the differences.

Anonymous said...

I think scabious are my favourite wayside flowers. I just love them. And the recipe... got to try that!

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