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Field Scabious - Knautia arvensis

This is the most calcicole of the selected species, i.e., it has the strongest preference for soils derived from limestone. It is a tall herb with blue-ish heads that stand out above the herbage from July to September. Individual plants can be long-lived: I suspect that some will live for decades. On the right kind of soils - alkaline - it will grow in both hay meadows and pastures, but it probably dislikes intensive grazing. It may also be a slow colonist of newly suitable ground. It might be confused with Devil's-bit scabious, but this is exceptionally rare hereabouts.

Survey Results Map

A century ago it was common in fields and by hedgerows. It was still common in 1948, but the Gloucestershire Flora said it grew on dry banks and cultivated fields. The former is typical, but the latter is not credible: it is not an arable weed, and perhaps this records that it persisted in hedgerows round ploughed fields. Flora Klickman records mauve scabious in bloom on 11/07/1923; 08/09/23, in bloom in mushroom fields; that she gathered it in her own fields at Brockweir on 18/09/1924; and that it was in bloom on 21/07/1931. She also records a 'large scabious' in bloom in fields on 29/8/1930.

The distribution map in 2017 disguises the fact that most Field scabious grow in the verge of the main road north and south of St Briavels. A few plants are scattered through the northern part of the Hudnalls, but it is absent from most of the Hudnalls, where the soils are naturally acid. These small populations appear to be at risk, for it has evidently gone from other locations in the Hudnalls. None were found east of the main road, not even on the road verges, nor the patch of limestone grassland near Aylesmore Brook.

Verdict:

  • Much rarer than a century ago and still declining as outlying individuals give up.
  • Reasonably strong populations along the main road dependent for a future on how the verges are managed and how much the hedges are trimmed.

George Peterken