Interesting Plant: Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist, ragged lady)

Nigella damascena


Interesting Plant: Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist, ragged lady)

Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist, ragged lady[1]) is an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. It is native to southern Europe (but adventive in more northern countries of Europe), north Africa and southwest Asia, where it is found on neglected, damp patches of land.

The specific epithet damascena relates to Damascus in Syria.[2] The plant’s common name comes from the flower being nestled in a ring of multifid, lacy bracts. It is also sometimes called devil-in-the-bush.

It grows to 20–50 cm (8–20 in) tall, with pinnately divided, thread-like, alternate leaves. The flowers, blooming in early summer, are most commonly different shades of blue, but can be white, pink, or pale purple, with 5 to 25 sepals. The actual petals are located at the base of the stamens and are minute and clawed. The sepals are the only colored part of the perianth. The four to five carpels of the compound pistil have each an erect style.

The fruit is a large and inflated capsule, growing from a compound ovary, and is composed of several united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. This is rather exceptional for a member of the buttercup family. The capsule becomes brown in late summer. The plant self-seeds, growing on the same spot year after year. — Wikipedia

While this lavender/purple color caught my eye initially, I see in my reading that these Nigella come in a variety of colors. I am not a big fan of annuals, but these might just be pretty enough to give a try. The small bracts surrounding the flowers give a somewhat “alien” look to the flowers, but this only increases their interesting appearance.

Like many of the plants and flowers I highlight here in the Interesting Plant series, Nigella damascena was entirely unknown to me until I came across it in my online travels. I find that writing this series is greatly expanding my knowledge of the plant and flower world and I hope you find it fun and useful, too.

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2 thoughts on “Interesting Plant: Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist, ragged lady)”

  1. What a fun looking plant! I just spotted some this weekend at the Atlanta Botanic Garden. A local elementary school is doing a “social studies” Thomas Jefferson garden, and received love-in-a-mist seeds from Monticello. I didn’t make the connection until now between the name and the flower. You’re definitely right about the bracts making the plant look alien. Thanks for the info!

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