top of page
  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Scabious Butterfly Blue Beauty

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 19, 2020

[75-365] 19th. October 2020- Today I am celebrating this plant in my garden because I moved in in January and in February I was given this plant, which was in flower at the time and has been in flower every day since and is still in flower today. That is pretty remarkable for such an unassuming little plant. Every day it has a collection of closed buds, half open buds, fully open flowers, dying blooms and seed heads all at the same time.

Scabiosa is a genus in the honeysuckle family of flowering plants. Another common name for members of this genus is pincushion flowers. The common name 'scabious' comes from the herb's traditional usage as a folk medicine to treat scabies, an illness that causes a severe itching sensation.

I was going to elaborate on Scabies but when I started to read it, that alone had me itching badly. So I will spare you the details and let you Google it yourselves.

The flowers are borne on inflorescences in the form of heads; each head contains many small florets, each floret cupped in a membranous, saucer-shaped bract. After the flowers have dropped, the calyces together with the bracts form a spiky ball that may be the reason for the "pincushion" common name.

In a few species the heads are sessile but in most species they are borne singly on a tall peduncle.

I was going to leave that last line out until I saw the word peduncle. Of course I had to know what a peduncle was. Apart from my mother's brother's foot of course.

Word of the day is peduncle- In botany, a peduncle is a stem supporting an inflorescence, or, after fecundation, an infructescence.

This one just gets better and better. Fecundation, infructescence, this is just an overflowing orchard of fecundity and fruitfulness as wordplay.

It reminds me of a British TV programme called "The Good Old Days". It was an entertainment series which ran from 1953 to 1983 and recreated the atmosphere of the music hall. It was performed at the Leeds City Varieties and recreated an authentic atmosphere of the Victorian–Edwardian music hall with songs and sketches of the era. The audience dressed in period costume (yes, the whole audience) and joined in the singing, especially "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" which closed the show each week. The show was compered by Leonard Sachs, who introduced the acts from a desk situated at the side of the stage. In the course of its run it featured about 2,000 performers. Each show was up to an hour long.

It was Leonard Sachs introductions of the acts that was the highlight of the show. To introduce Scabiosa he would probably have said,

Our next act is a world of fecundity and overripe with infructescensce in it's peduncle equipped fruitfulness. The inflorescence of membranous bractatiousness and it's cataphyllic, stupendousness, and perennial fecundation with a crescendo of sessility will astound you. Or something like that.

My attempt is no match for his efforts which at every word, over pronounced with regal diction, ejected with force from his larynx, received ever louder hoots of appreciation from the audience. Oh how we laughed. Yes, really, we did, hysterically.

To be fair there were only two TV channels back then and it was the "Good Old Days" or a professorial dissertation on the speed of light, which tended not to receive hoots from it's audience, which probably amounted to about five people in Oxford. The audience for The Good Old Days was probably about thirty million, none of whom knew what on earth Leonard Sachs was going on about, which of course was what was so hysterically funny.

As long as a man in a dress came on, stage left, to sing a rude suggestive song when Leonard had finished that was all that really mattered.

"Aunty Mary had a canary up the leg of her drawers....................

I leave the rest to your imagination.

The Old Bull and Bush is a Grade II listed public house near Hampstead Heath in London, which gave its name to the music hall song "Down at the old Bull and Bush", sung by Florrie Forde. The Old Bull and Bush is managed by Mitchells and Butlers under the Premium Country Dining Group brand. The interior was renovated to a modern, gastropub style in 2006.

Gastropub and Music Hall are what you would probably call polar opposites.

Flora May Augusta Flannagan, known professionally as Florrie Forde, was an Australian popular singer and music hall entertainer. From 1897 she lived and worked in the United Kingdom. She was one of the most popular stars of the early 20th century music hall. At the age of 21, in 1897, she left Australia for London, and on August Bank Holiday 1897, she made her first appearances in London at three music halls – the South London Palace, the Pavilion and the Oxford – in the course of one evening. She became an immediate star, making the first of her many sound recordings in 1903 and making 700 individual recordings by 1936.

Down at the Old Bull and Bush,

Come, come, drink some port wine with me,

Down at the Old Bull and Bush,

Hear the little German Band,

Just let me hold your hand dear,

Do, do come and have a drink or two

Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Bush, Bush

Come, come, come and make eyes at me

But this quintessentially almost patriotic flag waver of a British song may not be what it seems.

The song appears to date from 1903 / 1904. There is a recording apparently dated from 1903 by a Miss Edith Manley. The song may also have been a re-work of a song with much the same words titled “Down at the Anheuser Bush” – a song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company which also seems to have appeared in 1904. The Anheuser Bush origin may be correct as the Old Bull and Bush version has a German band reference and the Anheuser Busch company grew out of the 1860 take over of the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis by Eberhard Anheuser. (

Members of this genus are native to Africa, Europe and Asia. Some species of Scabiosa, notably small scabious (S. columbaria) and Mediterranean sweet scabious (S. atropurpurea) have been developed into cultivars for gardeners.

In 1782, a mysterious pale yellow scabious, called Scabiosa trenta, was described by Belsazar Hacquet, an Austrian physician, botanist, and mountaineer, in his work Plantae alpinae Carniolicae. The Austrian botanist Anton Kerner von Marilaun later proved Belsazar Hacquet had not found a new species, but a specimen of the already known submediterranean Cephalaria leucantha.

This may be one of the earliest examples of "Fake News"

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page