Devil’s-bit

Melliferous, rather tall perennial with violet flowers. Devil’s-bit is also a host species for native butterflies: gossamer-winged, forester moths, and fritillaries. It prefers locations with acidic and poor soil, and copes well in partial shade.

SKU: N048

3,2525,50

About the species

Polish name: meadow devil’s-bit

Latin name: Succisa pratensis

Family: the teasel family Dipsacaceae

Status in Poland: native species, permanently established, rare, but not legally protected

Durability:
perennial plant
Flower color:
purple
Height:
about 80 cm
Flowering:
July-October

Morphology

Low to medium-high perennial. The underground rhizome is bulbous, but short, as if bitten or cut, rich in  tannins, saponins, and alkaloids. Stems erect, branching, hairy  upside, and  glabrous  to the roots, opposite decussate foliaged. Massive, ovate or elliptical-lanceolate leaves, usually entire-margined, less often slightly serrated, the upper ones sessile, and  the lower petioled.

Single flowers are protandrous, composed of  an epicalyx, a calyx, and  a corolla. The shape of the head changes with  age from  semicircular to  flatter.

Nut-type fruits , quadrangular, strongly ciliated, up to  5 mm long.

Additional information

Sowing

Devil’s-bit likes moist places with acidic and poor in minerals soil.

Perfectly tolerates partial shade.

Interesting facts

Contrary to the Polish name, the devil’s-bit, almost always grows smaller than the rarer, protected southern succisella Succisella inflexa (which Polish name is “Kluk’s small devil’s-bit”). The most important, apart from the southern succisella, a food plant for caterpillars of the protected and rare marsh fritillary, known in Germany as “devil’s-bit fritillary”.

The generic name of this herb is identical in most European languages. It refers to the medieval legend about a plant created by the Mother of God for those suffering from the plague so that they could heal themselves, and make their confessions on time. The enraged devil plucked the plant from the ground and eat almost the entire bulbous root. Despite this, God ordered the plant to continue to grow, despite losing most of the root. In memory of this event, the underground organs of this flower look like a scrap of a root.

Use Value

An exquisite honey species, very attractive for honeybees, solitary bees, and bumblebees. It also attracts butterflies with its light violet, or sometimes blue-violet color. For years, this perennial has been used as an undersown crop by beekeepers.

Devil’s-bit nectar is eaten by, among others, Alkon blue, and six-spot burnet, and small pearl-bordered fritillary among the more common lepidopterans.

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