Serratula tinctoria was once abundant in the UK in grasslands, meadows and wet heaths, but has declined in recent years due to drainage, the improvement of pastures and the loss of grasslands in woods and on wood-margins.
Growing to 100 cm, the purple thistle-like flowers appear between June and September. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). The flower heads are about 15 to 25 mm across, and are pollinated by flies and bees – particularly long-tongued bees that are able to reach the nectar offered by this species.
The leaves have serrated edges and early herbalists saw this as a divine message that the plant was useful for healing wounds.
The Millennium Seed Bank safeguards practically the entire British flora in its vaults, including Serratula tinctoria. In addition, this plant is part of the Magical Meadows Festival at Wakehurst, where you can see this and many other UK native species growing in Bloomer’s Valley.