Succisa pratensis

Succisa pratensis

The devil’s bite (Succisa pratensis Moench, 1794) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Dipsacaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Subclass Asteridae,
Order Dipsacales,
Dipsacaceae family,
Genus Succisa,
S. pratensis species.
Basionimo is the term:
– Scabiosa succisa L ..
The terms are synonymous:
– Asterocephalus succisa (L.) Wallr.;
– Asterocephalus tomentosus Spreng.;
– Lepicephalus inflexus Steud.;
– Lepicephalus succisa (L.) Eichw.;
– Scabiosa borealis Salisb.;
– Scabiosa columbaria subsp. vogesiaca (Jord.) Berher, 1887;
– Scabiosa glabrata Hegetschw.;
– Scabiosa glabrata Schott;
– Scabiosa glabrata Schott ex Roem. & Schult., 1818;
– Scabiosa hirsuta (Wallr.) Bercht. & Opiz, 1838;
– Scabiosa hirsuta Mazziari;
– Scabiosa praemorsa Gilib.;
– Scabiosa prolifera Mazziari;
– Scabiosa succisa var. arenaria Rouy;
– Scabiosa succisa var. gigantea Maire;
– Scabiosa succisa var. grandifolia Rouy;
– Scabiosa succisa var. ovalis Rouy;
– Succisa altissima Schur;
– Succisa angustula Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa aurigerana Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa beugesiaca Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa brevis Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa cagiriensis Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.;
– Succisa cuspidata Jord.;
– Succisa dentata Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa elliptica Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.;
– Succisa fuchsii Gray;
– Succisa fuscescens Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa gigantea Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.;
– Succisa glabrata Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa glabrata Sweet;
– Succisa gracilescens Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa hirsuta Opiz;
– Succisa incisa Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa laetevirens Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa microcephala Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa palustris Sass;
– Succisa parvula Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa platyphylla Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa praemorsa Asch.;
– Succisa pratensis subsp. hirsuta (Opiz) Chrtek;
– Succisa pratensis subsp. scotiaca (Baksay) Chrtek;
– Succisa pratensis subsp. scotiaca Baksay;
– Succisa pratensis var. arenaria (Rouy) P.D.Sell;
– Succisa pratensis var. boccae Briq. & Cavill., 1915;
– Succisa pratensis var. grandifolia (Rouy) P.D.Sell;
– Succisa pratensis var. hirsuta Rchb., 1850;
– Succisa pratensis var. hispidula Peterm., 1838;
– Succisa pratensis var. ovalis (Rouy) P.D.Sell;
– Succisa pratensis var. scotiaca Baksay;
– Succisa pratensis var. subacaulis (Bernardin) P.D.Sell;
– Succisa prativaga Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa procera Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa propera Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa pyrenaea Jord. & Fourr., 1868;
– Succisa pyrenaica Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa rhodanensis Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa sabauda Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa stricta Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa subacaulis Bernardin;
– Succisa succisa H.Karst.;
– Succisa sylvatica Becker, 1827;
– Succisa sylvatica Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa tardans Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa viretorum Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa vogesiaca Jord. & Fourr.;
– Succisa vulgaris J.Presl & C.Presl.

Etymology –
The term Succisa comes from cut under, from sub under and from caedo cut: the name derives from the appearance of the rhizome which seems to have been cut, as if it had been ‘bitten by the devil’, hence the Italian name of the plant.
The specific epithet pratensis comes from prátum prato: of meadows, referring to the growing environment.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The devil’s bite is a species with Eurasian-South European distribution; it is present throughout Europe, in northern Africa, in the Caucasus and in Siberia.
In Italy it is present in the central-northern area (except in the Marches), Abruzzo, Calabria and perhaps Basilicata.
Its habitat is that of humid meadows, on rather deep and humus-rich loamy-clay soils, alternately humid and dry, from neutral to subacid, from sea level to the lower mountain belt and, in any case, no higher than 1,600 m. s.l.m ..

Description –
Succisa pratensis is a perennial herbaceous plant that can reach a height of 0.40 meters. The root is a rhizome taproot; the underground stem is a short oblique rhizome that detaches itself from the taproot in a clear and characteristic way.
The basal leaves are lanceolate.
The inflorescence is a 1,5-3 cm flower head, composed of hermaphroditic tubular flowers, of a blue-pink color with 4 lobes about 7 mm long and long pedunculated.
Male and female flowers are produced on different (gynodiic) flower heads, female flower heads are smaller.
The anthesis is from June to October depending on the altitude and latitude.

Cultivation –
Succisa pratensis is a perennial plant that is harvested in nature for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
It is a plant that prefers on slightly acidic or calcareous and humid soils.
It also grows best in the sun or, at least, in dim light.
The plant is resistant to cold up to a minimum temperature of about -20 ° C.
It is an excellent plant for bees and butterflies and plants and as a food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies.
The plant propagates by seed; sowing should be done in mid-spring. Germination is generally rapid.
If sown in seedbeds, the transplant must be carried out as soon as the plants are manageable.
It can also propagate agamically by division in the spring period.

Customs and Traditions –
Succisa pratensis is a plant known and used for some time.
In popular medicine it is considered effective against calculosis (it is believed above all if collected on the night of St. John the Baptist, that is, on June 24). According to tradition, if the root is detached with a bite, it would have an anti-demonic effect. As an amulet, worn around the neck, it would protect against spells. Hanging inside a stable, it would guarantee the cattle against witchcraft.
Beyond tradition, however, it is a plant that also has an edible use.
Young sprouts can be eaten and added to spring salads.
In medicinal use, the following properties are recognized for this plant: it is anthelmintic, emollient, purifying, slightly diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, slightly expectorant, febrifuge and stomachic.
With this plant, herbal teas are prepared in the treatment of coughs, fevers and internal inflammations and is also a popular application externally to eczema and other skin rashes.
A tincture of the plant is a gentle but reliable treatment for bruises, aiding rapid reabsorption of blood pigment.
Among other uses, it should be noted that a green dye is obtained from the leaves.
From an ecological point of view, the plant is an excellent food herb for many insects and in particular for the butterflies Euphydryas aurinia and Hemaris tityus. Its nectar is appreciated by endangered species such as Maniola jurtina and Phengaris alcon.

Preparation Method –
Succisa pratensis uses the whole grass which is harvested in early autumn and dried for later use.
In addition to the sprouts that can be used in spring salads, it is used, as mentioned, in the medicinal field.
Both herbal teas and tinctures are prepared for the aforementioned remedies.
Furthermore, good results have been obtained using the plant’s distilled water as an eye lotion for the treatment of conjunctivitis.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Photo source:

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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