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field scabiosa

Field scabiosa (Knautia arvensis)

Herbaceous perennial in the teasel family, this species grows 1-3 feet tall. Plants are erect, hairy, and sparsely branched with bluish - purplish flowers and deeply cut leaves.


Regulated areas of field scabiosa
This species is Restricted (Orange counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: blue buttons, meadow widow flower, and gypsy’s rose
  • Scientific names: Scabiosa arvensis

Ecological threat:

  • Invader of prairies and grasslands; threatening Wisconsin's most impaired vegetation community, the tallgrass prairies.
  • This species is also commonly found along roadsides and disturbed areas.
  • A single plant can produce up to 2000 seeds.
  • Deep taproots make this species very difficult to remove.
  • Infestations also result in significant declines in hay production and pasture land carrying capacities.

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for field scabiosa was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves & stems: Stems have stiff hairs angled downwards, but are not prickly. Leaves are hairy. Lower leaves are usually coarsely toothed, or sometimes entire, and form a basal rosette. The upper leaves are opposite and deeply, pinnately cut.

Flowers: Blue to purple in color. Inflorescence is a dense composite of small florets clustered into a domed-shaped head resembling a single flower that occurs singly at the ends of stems. Below the flower head is a ring of narrow green bracts. Plants bloom June-September.

Fruits & seeds: The fruit is nut-like, cylindrical, very small, and hairy.

Roots: Plants develop a deep taproot.



Known county distribution of field scabiosa
Counties in WI where field scabiosa has been reported (as of June 2013). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have field scabiosa in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.



  • Cut or mow plants before they set seed to prevent the establishment of new plants.
  • Pulling is seldom effective due to the difficulty in removing the long, branched roots.
  • Infestations can be controlled by tilling and cultivation of other species. Heavily infested pastures/hayfields can be cultivated and rotated to an annual crop.


  • Escort (metsulfuron-methyl) at 20 gr/ha (8.0 gr/acre) provides excellent control. Escort should be applied to actively growing plants up to the early flower bud stage.


View field scabiosa pictures in our photo gallery!

Last revised: Friday May 31 2019