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Scandix pecten-veneris (L)         Sheperd's Needle


Scandix : from Greek : edible plant.

pecten veneris : from Greek comb of Venus, a Greek godess.
Fruit beaks collectively look like a comb.

Come Chervil, (Turner 1548). Ponkenell, (Banckes, 1525). Adam’s needle,
(Sam. N’thum, Berwick). Beggar’s needle. (Som, Shrop, Midlands). Clock needle, (Bucks).
Crake needle, (Yks, N. Eng) Crow’s needle. (Sam, Lincs, IoW, Bucks, N’thant). Crow pecks,
(Som, Wilts, Hants). Ladys Comb, (Dong). Deil‘s darning needle, (Berw, Lanark). Elshin, deli’s
eishin. witche’s needles, (Berw). Needle points, (Ess). Hedgehogs. (Dor, Sam, Suss). Long beaks,
(Dor). Old womans needle, (Hants). Old wifes darning needles, sheperds comb, (Yks).
Pins & needles, (Som). Tailders, (Corn). Puck needle, pook needle, (Hants, Suss). Tailors needles,
(Corn, Dev). Comb, (Suff). All needle names because of shape of fruit beak.

BSBI Picture Link to Scandix pecten-veneris


erect branched, glabrous annual. Th.
ROOTS : tap root, downy. HEIGHT : 15—50cm.
STEMS : become hollow when old. Striate, >or< pubescent with short scattered hairs.
UMBELS : 1—3 stout rays, glabrous. Peduncle v.short or 0. Terminal Hermaphrodite.
Lateral varying % Male + Hermaphrodite.
LEAVES : 2—3 pinnate, oblong or narrowly deltate. Lobes 5—10 mm, spathulate, margins
denticulate, or subentire. Petiole widened at the base, with a scarious, ciliate margin.
Cotyledons tapered at the base, no petiole.
BRACTS : before pollination, bract leaves are undivided, as pollinated they enlarge
by 3 H and become notches in the ovary beak. Bracteoles 5, 5—10mm, bifid or
pinnatifid, sometimes entire, spinous—ciliate.
FLOWERS : white. Sub sessile. The pedicels elongating and becoming thickened in fruit.
Calyx teeth minute or 0. Petals unequal, point inflexed or 0. Styles forming stylopodium. Fl. 5—6.
FRUIT : 15—80mm. Subcylindrical. V. long beak x 3— 4 > than seed. Commisure constricted.
Carpels subterete, ridges prominent, slender, scabrid with forward pointing bristles on
margins. Carpophore present. Vittae solitary in furrows. Pedicels as thick as the rays, glabrous
at the apex. Scabrid styles, x2—4 > than stylopodium, very short, erect. Stigma tapering.
Ripe fruit splits with violent jerk. 2n=16, 26.

HABITAT : arable land, disturbed ground, cart-tracks.

DISTRIBUTION : native, common. In S.E England rare, local, near coast. Rare in
Wales + North. C. & S. & W. Europe. W. & C. Asia. N. & S. Africa. Chile. New Zealand.
BSBI Distribution Map for Scandix pecten-veneris (UK)

RELATED SPECIES: S. australis (L) occurs as a casual, does not persist.
Similar to S. pecten-veneris but has a slightly compressed beak, which is not clearly
distinct from the seed bearing portion.


Dodoneoeus, 1578 : “It was eaten among the Greeks." The comic poet Aristophanes
b.444 B.C. taunted Euriphides with by saying that his mother was not
a seller of good herbs, but only of Scandix.


Resistant to herbicides, making a comeback due to stopping of stubble burning.


This is a herb to give to a puck. pook, devil or witch.

EXTERNAL LINKS FOR Scandix pecten-veneris

These links to trusted websites and institutions may provide in depth or additional information regards cultivation, chemistry, edibility, images etc. for the species. Links last updated Aug 2012.

Wikipedia (EU)    Plants For a Future (UK)
Bio Info (UK)     Plantlife (UK)

'Online Guide To Umbelliferae Of The British Isles' Compiled By J.M.Burton 2002