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Scabiosa from its Latin name means “scabies” – an itch or scratch and this flower was supposed to cure it. More info on the plant from Linda Inoki’s Japan Times “In Bloom” column below.

IN BLOOM
Matsumushi-so (Scabious)
By LINDA INOKI
“The autumn insects all have their good points, but Her Majesty seems to prefer the pine cricket. She sent some of her men a great distance to bring them in from the moors, but when she had them in her garden only a very few of them sang as sweetly as they had sung in the wilds. One would expect them to be as durable as pines, but in fact they seem to have short lives.”
From the 11th-century “Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu,
translated by Edward G. Seidensticker (Penguin Books)

The lovely wild flowers of Scabiosa japonica bloom on grassy slopes in the mild regions of Japan. Although the flowers are very attractive to butterflies, the plant’s name is linked to the pine cricket, or matsumushi. This is because its bell-shaped cluster of fruits looks like the small toy bells that were traditionally used to imitate the autumn cries of the pine cricket. If you look at each tiny fruit through a magnifying glass you will see a small “umbrella” at the top, which helps the fruit scatter on the wind. Many different species of scabious can be seen in the Mediterranean area, but they are also found in Africa and across central Asia. One of these Asian species, S. caucasia, has become a popular garden plant, as it produces large, lavender-blue flowers from June to October. Scabious flowers are usually shades of blue or purple, but there are also white and deep wine-red versions that you can often find in flower shops. Each flower head is actually a cluster of tiny individual florets. The smallest ones are packed together in the center like a soft round cushion, which is why the traditional English name for the field scabious is “Lady’s Cushion.”

The Japan Times: Aug. 29, 2002
(C) All rights reserved

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