Greater knapweed

Centaurea scabiosa
Aster family (Asteraceae)

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Centaurea scabiosa, or greater knapweed, is a perennial plant of the genus Centaurea. It is native to Europe and bears purple flower heads.

Greater knapweed is found growing in dry grasslands, hedgerows and cliffs on lime-rich soil. Upright branched stems terminate in single thistle-like flowerheads, each having an outer ring of extended, purple-pink "ragged" bracts which form a crown around the central flowers. The plant has deeply dissected leaves which form a clump at the base.

This species is very valuable to bees. It is also a magnet for many species of butterfly. Among them is the marbled white.

This is the only known food plant for caterpillars of the Coleophoridae case-bearer moth Coleophora didymella. Centaurea scabiosa has been used in traditional herbal healing as either a vulnerary or an emollient.

The plant is sometimes confused with devils-bit scabious, however the leaves on this plant are arranged alternately, whereas in devils-bit they are opposite.


This perennial herb grows with an erect grooved stem up to 90 cm high. The leaves are alternate, pinnatifid and with stalks. The flower heads are 5 cm across and on long stalks. The florets are red-purple.


Dry grassland, roadsides and calcareous substrate.


Found in Great Britain and Ireland.



  • The Wild Flower Key British Isles-N.W. Europe by Francis Rose, page 385

External links

  • Media related to Centaurea scabiosa at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Centaurea scabiosa at Wikispecies
  • "Centaurea scabiosa". Plants for a Future.



WWW info

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