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Archive for the ‘Color: White’ Category

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. 

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I just saw this flower blooming in the gravel by the train station in the Southwest of Sweden. Pretty nondescript, I didn’t even realize it was a flower until I happened to look a little closer. After some digging, I believe this is a Corn Spurry (or spurrey, or in Swedish åkerspärgel). I’d never heard of a spurry before, and it turns out they are a member of the pink family. These are different than the rest of the pinks, though, because the petals aren’t notched. There are only 2 spurries in Sweden, the åkerspärgel and the vårspärgel. I think this is the former because it wasn’t standing upright.

Corn Spurry (Åkerspärgel), July in southwest Sweden

Corn Spurry (Åkerspärgel), July in southwest Sweden

I think I’ve identified it correctly, but I can’t be too sure because it was a little blue/purple and it is described as white. It is such a pleasure to find such a cute new flower to add to my collection, hiding among weeds and making an otherwise boring area by the train tracks a little prettier.

Corn Spurry (Åkerspärgel), July in southwest Sweden

Corn Spurry (Åkerspärgel), July in southwest Sweden

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Spring flowers are popping up everywhere now! Glory-of-the-snow (skillor), Spring Beauties (rysk blåstjärna), Puschkinia (Porslinshyacint) and daffodils (påsklilja) are blooming in corners of yards and edges of parks.

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

I thought at first this patch of white flowers were snowdrops. When I got closer to them, though, I saw right away these flowers were different – they are more shaped like bells and have a spot of yellow at the tip of each petal. They are in the lily family and grow from April through May in this part of the world. They are not native to this area of south-central Sweden.

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

In English, the name spring snowflake is quite appropriate – we just started feeling like the spring has finally arrived – it didn’t snow too long ago. The Swedish name, Snöklocka, means ‘snow bell’ which also nicely describes this flower. I was pleased to lift the bell and see the beautiful pattern revealed underneath.

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

Spring Snowflake (Snöklocka), Stockholm, Sweden in April

I am reminded that we are not guaranteed that this sunny spring weather will stay – as long as the flowers in bloom have the word ‘snow’ in the name! I am simply thankful that I had the opportunity to enjoy this day, soak in some sun and find another flower to add to my collection.

 

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I found this flower growing in June in Western Massachusetts in an overgrown field. At first I didn’t notice the flowers, just the odd veined sacks (or bladders) that the flowers protrude from. The Bladder Campion, or Silene cucubalus, was introduced in the U.S. from Europe.

Bladder Campion, Western Massachusetts in June

The veined balloon-like sack that makes this flower so identifiable is called a calyx. The stem and leaves are smooth, leaves are stalkless and it grows from 8 to 18 inches tall. Often found in dry soil, roadsides, boarders of fields and waste places.

Bladder Campion, Western Massachusetts in June

This plant is edible – the young leaves can be cooked green. The tender young leaves, picked when the plant is only a few inches high, can be boiled for 10 minutes and served with butter or vinegar. This can taste a little bitter, but this is due to a harmless amount of the toxin saponin (reference: Peterson Field Guides: Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America).

I found this old drawing in “Who’s Who Among the Wild Flowers” and the picture posted by the Connecticut Botanical Society shows more of the flowers than my photos.

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I saw this flower when I was in Denmark in early May. In Danish, the name is Nikkende Fuglemælk, which (according to Google Translate) means Nodding Birds Milk.  I found it growing in the grass at Kastellet in Copenhagen. It was beautiful out – almost summer weather – and these flowers contrasted against the green grass were a nice start to spring in Scandinavia.

Drooping Star of Bethlehem, Copenhagen, Denmark in May

In my Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe book, this flower is called Drooping Star of Bethlehem (Latin name: Ornithogalum nutans) in the Lily family. The leaves are linear and grass-like. These white and slightly nodding flowers have 6 petals in the shape of a star with a green stripe on the back of each petal. In the book, it says it is in a one-sided spike, but I found that these flowers were not on just one side of the spike. They grow from April through May in bare and grassy places in the Southern part of Northern Europe. According to Den Virtuella Floren, this flower blooms rarely in Sweden, but it can be seen in Skåne (Southern Sweden) and is called Aftonstjärna (translation: Evening Star).

Drooping Star of Bethlehem, Copenhagen, Denmark in May

The Latin name, nutans, is from the word nutare which means to nod and was named because of the flowers’ inclination to droop/nod. I like old scientific drawings of flowers, here is one of this flower from 1885. Check out the Yellow Star of Bethlehem post I wrote a couple of years ago to see another closely related flower with a similar name.

Drooping Star of Bethlehem, Copenhagen, Denmark in May

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This year’s spring has been beautiful – it started earlier than usual so we’ve been able to enjoy the spring flowers for longer. My favorite thing this time of year is seeing the flowering trees. There are magnolias, dogwoods and cherry trees. The magnolias have all finished blooming, but the cherry trees seem to hold on to their flowers for longer. This year, they have hit their peak bloom in April, whereas last year it was early May that they were at this stage.

Cherry Tree, The Fens, Boston, MA in April

 

The cherry tree’s genus is Prunus and it is in the rose family (not surprising when you see the rose-like flowers). Cherries have trunk bark with numerous cross streaks and buds with many scales. The whitish flowers are in long grape-like clusters cherries are always thornless. The leaves sticks and seeds from cherry trees often contain hydrocyanic acid, which makes the crushed twigs smell a little sour and if ingested, can make cattle or horses sick (or kill them). The fruit of the cherry tree is important to birds and mammals for food.

There are several species of cherry tree, but many of them are ornamental and not native to the U.S. The main way that the book I use distinguishes among species, “A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs” by George A. Petrides, is to look at the bark, the leaves, and the placement of the flowers. Is the bark rough and dark or smooth? Are the leaves sharp-toothed or blunt? Egg-shaped or narrow?  Are the flower clusters umbrella-like or in long clusters?

Cherry Tree Leaves, Boston

You can see that this cherry tree’s leaves have egg-shaped sharp-toothed leaves, with teeth that are so small they are almost hair-like. They are red underneath and green on top. I don’t know what type of cherry tree this is, but I know it’s good to sit under and read on sunny days and watch the birds fly from tree to tree.

Cherry Tree, Boston, MA

The flowers are quite showy and have not fallen off yet, despite the heavy winds the other day.

Cherry Tree Flowers, Boston, MA (April, 2012)

Cherry Tree Flowers, Boston, MA April

 

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In August in Maine, I found this white flower growing on the edge of a marsh.  The flowers branch off delicately from one stalk and have 3 roundish waxy-looking petals. This species appears to be the grass-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea) because I think these leaves were lance-like or grasslike, although I didn’t get a picture of them.  Other arrowheads have arrowhead-shaped leaves, which is where this family of flowers gets its name.  This could be a broad-leaved arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) which is the most common species and leaves can be variable (arrowhead-shaped and lance-shaped leaves within the same species) but I am unsure.  Arrowheads are aquatic and grow near pond edges in quiet, shallow water.

Grass-Leaved Arrowhead, Southern Maine, August, 2011

Grass-Leaved Arrowhead, Southern Maine, August, 2011

Another name for this plant is “Duck Potato”.  Small 1-2 inch potato-like tubers form at the ends of long subterranean runners that originate at the base of each plant.  You can use these tubers like a potato. Gather them by freeing them from the mud with a hoe or rake and collect them as they float to the water’s surface. According to my “Edible Wild Plants” Peterson Field Guide, these tubers are unpleasant raw but taste very good when cooked.  Collect them in the fall to early spring.  Maybe I will try to find some now that it is fall!

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In July and August near my apartment in Stockholm, bindweed had taken over a green area surrounding a bench in a park. It is considered a weed because it grows quickly and tends to choke surrounding plants with its tight tentacles.  I find them so beautiful, though, and can’t imagine wanting to remove them. I was able to take some time with my camera and get some high quality shots. I especially like the delicate stamens in these photos. The ones I found were a very light shade of pink, but I have seen them all white and some light bluish-purple.

Field Bindweed (Åkervinda), Stockholm, July 2011

Field Bindweed (Åkervinda), Stockholm, Sweden July 2011

Field Bindweed (Åkervinda), Stockholm, Sweden July 2011

The English name makes sense – it is a flower that grows in fields and binds and winds around things. In Swedish, Åker means “field” and “vinda” at least sounds to me like “winding” like how this plant winds around things nearby.

Very similar to the Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), the Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) has smaller leaves. Other members of the same family, the Morning Glory family, have similar flowers but slightly different leaf shapes or sizes. Looking up this flower, I learned that members of the morning glory family are often climbers, twining counterclockwise.

In Boston, I saw a few bindweeds growing in early September.  In Sweden, bindweeds grow through August.

In this photo, you can see that the flowers close up at the end of the day (photos taken at 9 PM at the height of the Swedish summer).

Field Bindweed, Stockholm, Sweden July, 2011

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Last week I went for a walk in the woods in the suburbs just west of Boston and came across a very special flower.

White Trillium is a striking flower – found in the woods, where you wouldn’t expect it, its single white flower stands on a stalk above 3 broad leaves.  From the lilly family, this flower has several different names: “large-flowered trillium”, “white trillium” or “wake robin” (latin: Trillium grandiflorum).  The name “wake robin” comes from the fact that this flower blooms around the time the robin appears, during the spring time.

 

White Trillium, May 2011

The flowers usually are from 2 to 4 inches and turn pink with age, blooming from April through June. They grow from 12-18 inches high.  To distinguish between other trilliums, this one’s flower stands above the leaves instead of drooping  down.

This flower is unique in several ways. Firstly, it is native to Eastern North America – many of the plants I have posted about have been brought over from Europe, Asia or Africa.   Secondly, the seeds are mainly dispersed by ants!  this is not very common. This means the plant does not spread its seeds as far as other plants.  Thirdly, the seeds require double dormancy, meaning it takes 2 years to fully germinate.  Lastly, this plant is special because it is considered “vulnerable” (in Quebec and New York), or endangered (in Maine).  It is slow growing and its habitat has decreased and white-tailed deer (that have taken over what is left of the woods in Massachusetts, at least) love to eat it.  The flower is very pretty, but hard to cultivate – it is unclear whether those found at stores are taken from the wild or not because it hasn’t been show that much cultivation has been done.

White Trillium - 3 Broad Leaves

As always, you should never pick flowers!  Especially Trillium, which are rare and threatened.  Enjoy wildlife by observation, not by interaction with it. Leave the flowers and the woods as you found them.

Thanks very much to the wildflower sanctuary where I found these trillium – what a magical place!  It reminds me about how important land conservation is and how much I appreciate that people have made space available for people like me to enjoy nature.  Thank you!

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

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This wildflower looks like a tuft of cotton on a stick.  I came across meadowsweet in May in Sweden.

Meadowsweet (Älggräs), Sweden

  • Latin name:  Filipendula ulmaria
  • Swedish name: Älggräs.  Literally ‘Elk grass’.
  • Grows in damp places (marshes, fens, swamps, wet meadows, woods)
  • Native to Europe and western Asia
  • member of the Rose family
  • fragrant
  • it has been used to spice beer (mead) and for herbal tea
  • contains salicylic acid (a pain killer, found in aspirin)
  • used in midsummer and wedding celebrations

 


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