The pincushion flower belongs to the scabiosa genus, which is a member of the relatively small dipsacaceae family. These blossoms – which are native to areas of both Asia and Europe – are considered prolific in their growth habits, and tend to form in large clumps surrounded by lobed, decorative foliage. Their heads take on a distinctive button-like appearance that can grow up to 3 inches in diameter and may be single or double. These heads are generally replete with soft, delicate petals which surround a number of either white or yellow stamens. They come in a vast array of colors, from the common white, pink and lavender, to more unusual shades of near-white yellow, and near-black maroon.
The pincushion flower bears a lot of interesting history in both the realms of medicine and within the realms of magic. These flowers have taken their place in hoodoo herb magic, and are backed with a fascinating story. In this story, it is said that the stunted roots of the scabious plant appear to have a bite taken out of them. This uncanny appearance is thought to have come about because the Devil became so jealous of the plant’s many healing gifts that he ripped it from the ground, and gnawed off a piece of the root to punish it. Taking pity on the poor wounded plant, God allowed it to continue to thrive on earth – though the newly mangled appearance was left as a reminder of the Devil’s wickedness. Because of this story, the roots are most commonly used for hoodoo magic, and are frequently dried and chipped. The chips are applied to a variety of conjurations – from protection of person and property, to keeping evil or angry spirits at bay. The medicinal uses of the pincushion flower are quite various. They are best known for their use as an ointment to aid in curing skin conditions – thus the botanical name, scabisoa, which loosely translates into “cure for scabies.” They are also frequently made into teas that can be used either to treat fevers and coughs, or as hair rinses that ease dandruff.
Although most people will likely give the pincushion flower as a gift simply for its unusual beauty, these blossoms were – and still occasionally are – given to those that are grieving. This is due largely to the fact that they generally represent grief, as well as an unfortunate love affair.