Usually flowering in high summer, the Lizard climate can see Sheep's-bit in bloom as early as June.
Photo: Steve Townsend

 

 

SHEEP’S-BIT

Scientific name: Jasione montana

Other names: Blue bonnets, Blue buttons, Sheep’s-bit scabious

Conservation status: No designation

Sheeps bitThe flower head of Sheep’s-bit looks like a scabious, but is in fact a member of a different family – the bellflower family (Campanulaceae), and its flowers are a paler blue. Its natural range covers most of Europe, but in the UK it is mainly distributed in the west, where it is found in dryer places with acidic soils on cliffs, heaths and sandy grasslands. A biennial, it can bloom from as early as May but looks its best from later in June, when it often grows in drifts. Although it can reach a height of 50 cm, it is generally lower growing where it occurs on clifftops. It propagates by seed.

The reasons for the decline of Sheep’s-bit in the eastern parts of the UK relate to the loss of lowland heathland and other habitat.

Did you know…?

…Sheep’s-bit has been introduced to parts of the coast of North America, where it is becoming an invasive species

…the plant gets its common name because sheep enjoy eating it

More information and references:  

Mabey, R., 1997. Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.

Parnell, J., 1987. Plant Crib: Jasione montana subsp. montana. BSBI: http://www.bsbi.org.uk/Jasione_montana_Crib.pdf

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Websites:

Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora:
http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/index.php?q=plant/jasione-montana

Sheeps bit 2

Published: June 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Steve Townsend

Click here for information about other plant species found on the Lizard.