Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This is one of my favorite wildflowers which grows here in Stockholm. It is delicate, intricate, and absolutely beautiful. I found it growing in the first half of May in a marshy area next to a pond. I am reminded of when it should be blooming every time mother’s day is celebrated in the U.S. I think about how beautiful the flower is, I wish my mother was here to see it.

003

Kungsängslilja, Snake’s head lily, Stockholm, Sweden, May

In Swedish, Kungsängslilja got its name from Kungsängen (King’s Meadow), a meadow near Fyris River outside Uppsala. It means, literally, King’s Meadow Lily. It is said that the flowers grew in great number there after the battle between Erik Segersäll and Styrbjörn Starke in the 10th century (Battle of Fyrisvellir). For every fallen Danish soldier, a red/purple flower grew, for every fallen Swedish, a white flower grew. The white kungsängsliljor are less common than the red/purple, more Danes were killed than Swedes, and Erik was victorious. Kungsängslilja is Uppland’s official flower, or “landskapsblomma”.

snakes head lilly - white

Kungsängslilja, Snake’s head lily, Stockholm, Sweden, May

In English, this flower has several different names. The pattern on the petals is a little like snake skin. I think I find it so fascinating because it’s not native in the U.S., where I grew up. It is said to be native to Europe and western Asia and is quite rare. I look forward to every May, when I long for the days to get warmer, and this beautiful being appears and gives me hope that spring is springing.

007

Kungsängslilja, Snake’s head lily, Stockholm, Sweden, May

These little blue flowers hiding under a bush are called ‘blåsippor’ in Swedish. They grow in the spring time between March and May in well-drained soil, on lime usually in half-shaded woodsy areas.

Blåsippor, Hepatica nobilis, Stockholm, Sweden April 2015

Blåsippor, Hepatica nobilis, Stockholm, Sweden April 2015

The English name comes straight from the flower’s Latin name: Hepatica nobilis. We don’t have Hepatica back in the U.S., at least none that I have seen. According to ‘Blommor i Sverige’ by Janzon and Mossberg, hepatica were used to cure liver disease because the leaf looks like a human liver. In fact, that is where its name comes from. Hepatica comes from Latin’s ‘hepar’ which means liver (think: hepatitis). Because it contains the toxin protoanemonin (like the other buttercups in its family), you shouldn’t eat it, despite what they used to say in the 1600’s.

I was especially surprised to see these blåsippor next to my friend’s driveway because I had read that they were protected due to over-picking. They are protected in Skåne, Halland, Västra Götaland, Stockholm and Västerbotten counties. This flower is used to represent the political party the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna).

With these spring flowers which appear just after the frost, I also hope to come out of hibernation and share more of the beautiful spring flowers popping up everywhere. Vi ses snart (see you soon)!

Red Valerian in Galway

Recently, I took a road trip around Ireland. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been with such beautiful scenery and so many different landscapes, it was perfect for a travelling naturalist!

While in Galway, I saw this flower growing on the Spanish Arch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Arch).

 

Red Valerian, Galway, Ireland in July

Red Valerian, Galway, Ireland in July

I love flowers that can grow in any odd space, and this one certainly could. It was perched about halfway up, it doesn’t seem to have much of a foothold of dirt, but it is flourishing nonetheless! You can see here the hot pink head of tightly packed flowers. The Red Valerian is originally from the Mediterranean but can now be find places such as Ireland, not only in the wild but it is a garden perennial as well. I thought it might be more of a shrub than a wildflower because of the thick wooden stem holding on to the rock, but apparently it is a ‘subshrub’ and will be shrublike if it needs to be.

Listed as a member of the Valerian family in my Collins Pocket Guide (1996 edition), I just read on Wikipedia that Valerian is now considered part of the Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliacea). Flowers in this family have leaves opposite and small flowers with 5 joined petals.

I was in Southern Sweden over the weekend and found this flower by a tree stump next to the lake. I thought they were interesting, a group of purple balls balancing on their thin stalks, waving in the wind.

Sand Leek (Skogslök), Halland Sweden in June

Sand Leek (Skogslök), Halland Sweden in June

When I got closer, I could smell onion. I realized that the onion smell was coming from one of the broken stalks. So it is no surprise that this flower is called sand leek in English and skogslök (wood onion) in Swedish (Latin name Allium scorodoprasum). They grow in fresh, humus-rich soil near water. They were once farmed and a popular for use in cooking. The sand leek is native to Europe. There is another flower that is similar, sandlök (called wild garlic in English) which actually grows in more dry sandy areas. I wonder why the wood onion was named sand leek in English? Linnaeus mentioned that sand leek was cooked with cabbage in his time. It smelled so good, I can imagine eating it!

Sand Leek (skogslök), Halland, Sweden, June

Sand Leek (skogslök), Halland, Sweden, June

This flower is my first Allium. I have seen alllium growing in gardens for show, I had no idea that Allium had so many relatives and that they smell like onion or garlic. Allium are members of the Amaryllis family (although one book I have says they are part of the lilly family, although that might be out of date now).

 

Last week we came across many patches of this yellow flower growing along the water’s edge. They have distinct bright flowers and big green heart-shaped leaves. They looked so familiar, when I came home I realized they are called Marsh Marigold which also grows in New England.

Kabbleka, Stockholm, May

Kabbleka, Stockholm, May

In Swedish, this flower is called kabbleka (latin name: Caltha palustris). It grows between April to June, sometimes in July. The name first was noted in the 1630’s. According to ‘Blommor i Sverige’ by Janzon and Mossberg, the flower may be called kabbleka because it is close to ‘clump’, due to its clump of stalks and roots. Another explanation could be a corruption of the name ‘kalvleka’ (meaning ‘calf play’). This is a close to the English name ‘cow slip’, another name for marsh marigold.

Kabbleka (Marsh Marigold), Stockholm, Sweden

Kabbleka (Marsh Marigold), Stockholm, Sweden

Other names are klådblomster and skabbrosor due to the flower’s ability to both cause and cure klåd (itching) and skabb (scabies).

I don’t know about that, all I know is this flower brightened up our walk and is another flower Sweden has in common with New England!

Recently I visited Gothenburg, Sweden. The weather was unusually nice for this time of year! We saw a lot of spring flowers there, this one really stood out as quite different from the rest.

I came across this funny looking pink flower growing in the shade under a tree, seemingly straight out of the dead leaves there. It was so odd looking because it didn’t have any green around it and I thought I was seeing things. This is a toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) or in Swedish, Vätteros. It is a member of the figwort or snapdragon family and grows April – May in woods or hedges. It is a parasite! It grows on roots, usually on Hazel. The flowers are 2-lipped and a pinkish-purple color. It looks like it doesn’t have leaves, but it does have leaves, they are just white. It is very cool to come across one of the few plants that does not require chlorophyl.

Toothwort or Vätteros, Gothenburg, Sweden

Toothwort or Vätteros, Gothenburg, Sweden

Where does it get its name? ‘Vätte’ in Swedish means goblin, and this goblin-rose gets its name because goblins spend most of their lives underground. The English name for it, toothwort, is not as interesting. ‘Wort’ is an old English name for plant, and ‘tooth’ refers to the root, which looks a bit like a bunch of teeth (see here). There are other flowers which are also called toothwort, so there can be confusion with the name. Let’s just call it goblin rose!

Common Goldeneye, Knipa

We are now officially out of hibernation here in Stockholm. The sun is out, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming!

Last weekend we went for a walk near the sea. We saw these two diving sea ducks, a male and a female, taking turns going under. I love watching diving birds, waiting for them to re-surface, watching how easily and gracefully they slip under the water and pop back up. These birds are called Common Goldeneye in English and Knipa in Swedish. They nest in tree-holes, eat fish, crustaceans and insects and can be found in the Northern Hemisphere in coastal waters.

Image

Common Goldeneye (Knipa), Stockholm, Sweden in late March

I am no expert on birds. The wikipedia article is pretty good, in English here and Swedish here.

I looked up the word ‘knipa’ in the dictionary – it is a noun meaning a jam or a fix, and as a verb it means to pinch, win or obtain. I was surprised, these words don’t seem to have much to do with the bird! The entomology section of the wikipedia article in Swedish says that the name first was used in 1611 and may have been used to describe the way the wings sound when the bird takes flight (it is onomatopoeic). It might also be related to a  sailing term

I was surprised to see so many local names for this bird, every area seems to have its own language here! I’ve listed them below from the wiki article.

Skatand (Värmland), knijper, strandkniper, knip, kneip, knipoxe, knipånn, knipand, gnällvinge (Närke), isand (Bohuslän), dopping och doppand (Göteborg). The female has been called knipkärring and brunnacke.

In English, the name ‘goldeneye’ speaks for itself. It has been called ‘the Whistler’ given the sounds the wings make. Next time, I will wait to hear what they sound like when they fly – I was too focused on trying not to scare them off this time!

I traveled to Italy in September and snapped a few photos of this beautiful flower. 

Caper (Capparis spinosa), Rome, Italy in September

Caper (Capparis spinosa), Rome, Italy in September

Its 4 petals are overshadowed by the many purple stamens and one stigma high above the rest. This was growing on the wall of the Villa Medici at the top of the Spanish steps. I had no idea what it was, just that it was beautiful.

Caper (Capparis spinosa), Rome, Italy in September

Caper (Capparis spinosa), Rome, Italy in September

I found out it was a caper plant when I got home and looked it up. I love capers! I put them into a dish with chicken and lemon sauce served over rice. I never really thought about what capers were, I just knew that I liked them. It turns out they are the buds of this plant!  They are in their own family, the caper family, but they are closely related to the mustard or crucifer family. I would love to grow some capers in a garden of my own one day but I guess I would have to live somewhere warmer, they do well in arid climates. But I wouldn’t need much dirt, these plants can grow rock ledges and walls without much of a foothold. 

Seaside goldenrod

In late September last year, I visited Newport, Rhode Island. The weather was beautiful – the sun was strong, the sky was clear and blue, and it was a perfect chance to walk along the cliff walk where the mansions look over the ocean.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I noticed this bright yellow flower, which I was sure was a goldenrod, growing from the rocks. I was surprised to see a goldenrod by the ocean, since I’ve mainly seen them in sandy waste areas by the side of the road. This goldenrod was more plush than its relatives, with healthy leaves and full flower heads.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Its leaves are toothless and parallel-veined. It sometimes hybridizes with the Rough Stemmed goldenrod and can be found along the coasts near salt marshes, dunes and beaches. This one is a showy one, but on New York shores and south to Florida, they might not have such a plume-like head. There are many goldenrods in New England, but the key aspects to look for to tell them apart are the silhouette and whether the leaves are feather-veined or parallel-veined. Something new I learned while looking up this flower is that underneath the plant are  rhizomes – the plants close in proximity to each other all may come from the same original plant and may actually be clones.

Goldenrods signal the end of the summer. It was nice to see this flower out in late September – it can bloom through November in some parts – on a day when it felt like summer was going strong.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I caught a bee enjoying the goldenrod nectar. Goldenrods are insect-pollinated – the bright yellow attracts the bugs and the sticky pollen sticks to their legs so it gets passed around. If you are interested in finding insects, goldenrods are a good place to start! But insects aren’t the only ones who have enjoyed consuming this plant. The leaves are edible and have been used for some healing remedies (the Latin name for goldenrod Solidago, which means to make whole, coming from its medicinal use in healing wounds). Apparently they also contain rubber, which was once used to make tires!

It’s getting a bit cold here in Sweden and there are few flowers left blooming in the wild. Berries and acorns adorn every tree and bush and mushrooms are popping up everywhere. Swedes seem to have a special place in their hearts for mushrooms and mushroom hunting and it isn’t uncommon for people to pick their own mushrooms here. I was always told not to eat any mushrooms I found in the wild, but apparently if you are well-practiced in their identification, it is possible to avoid poisoning yourself.

One mushroom that really sticks out and is most definitely poisonous is the Fly Agaric or in Swedish Röd Flugsvamp (meaning ‘red fly mushroom’).

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

It gets its name because it was once used in powder form, sprinkled in milk to kill flies. This mushroom starts off by looking like a white egg, and slowly grows into what you see pictured above, which is an example of a mature fly agaric (with a flat hat and white spots).

Flugsvampar, or ‘fly mushrooms’ (the agaric genus Amanita), characteristically have free gills (located under the hat), which in Swedish are called ‘skivor’ (literally meaning ‘slices’ or ‘disks’). As an immature fruiting body, it looks like a white puff ball. Once mature, they have white spots on the cap (or ‘hatt’ = hat) and a ring round the stalk (or in Swedish ‘fot’=foot) of the mushroom. There is also a kind of sock at the base of the stalk (in Swedish ‘strumpa’ = stocking) which in English is called the volva. Sometimes the white spots wash off in rain, so don’t use that as the only identifier. Not all flugsvampar are poisonous, but most of those in my Swedish mushroom book (9 total) are listed as poisonous, very poisonous or at least inedible. Fly agaric also has hallucinogenic properties if ingested.

There are so many different kinds of mushrooms, and now that I am learning about them I am seeing them everywhere! This seems to be a much more complicated thing to identify than flowers since mushrooms can look very different depending on age and may vary greatly in color. I am starting with at least learning the parts of the mushroom and I hope to explore more new fungi soon. For now, the red fly mushroom is a good start. It is the easiest to identify with its recognizable features and is quite thrilling to come across it, bright and cartoon-like, in the forest!