Scabiosa columbaria occurs mostly in grasslands, rocky slopes and bushveld habitats, and it is widely distributed throughout South Africa and Lesotho and Swaziland. It is an evergreen, perennial herb with branches developing from a woody rootstock.
The family Caprifoliaceae contains the genus Scabiosa, as well as other ornamental flowers such as honeysuckle and weigela. Scabiosa flowers earned the nickname pincushion flower for the prominent stamens that emerge from the compact, round blooms like pins in a pincushion. Scabiosa plants form a low mound of foliage in a rosette shape, with medium green, serrated leaves. Healthy plants may produce 20 to 50 blooms, each held individually on thin stems. When in bloom, the plants average a foot in height. Mature plants are about a foot in diameter and three inches tall.