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Jasione montana

Sheep's Bit - D.Skingsley

Sheep's bit scabious (Jasione montana), is a low-growing plant. It's found in rocky places and upland regions of Europe and western Asia. Other common names include blue bonnets, blue buttons, blue daisy, iron flower, sheep's scabious and sheep's bit.

Distribution and habitatEdit

This plant is found in the north temperate zone of Europe, west Asia and north Africa. It is a rock plant growing on heaths and moors at a high elevation in rocky districts, coastal cliffs, quarries and natural escarpments where the soil is thin. It prefers acid soils and is absent from limestone regions. It is often found on coastal cliffs in association with thrift and kidney vetch and blooms from May to September.

DescriptionEdit

Sheep's bit scabious is a low biennial or occasionally annual plant growing up to about one foot tall with suberect stems that branch near the base. The leaves are linear, lanceolate, narrow at the base, sinuate, stiffly hairy and forming a rosette. The small violet-blue flowers are in small heads. The bracts are smooth or hairy and the petals have narrow lobes. There are 5 oblong anthers which unite at the base forming a tube, a feature that differentiates this plant from true Scabious.

The individual florets open successively. The anthers ripen first and later the styles elongate and the two-lobed stigmas are displayed. This make self-pollination less likely. There are nectaries in the upper part of the ovaries and many insects visit the flowers. Some fifty species of bees and wasps, thirty species of fly, thirty species of butterflies and moths and several beetles have been recorded as visiting the flowers.

The flowers are visible under ultraviolet light and it is believed that this makes them attractive to pollinating insects. They do not show a traditional bull's-eye pattern to guide the insect but the ultraviolet reflectance of the petals is very high.

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