Archive for the ‘Family: Amaryllis’ Category

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of the Amaryllis family (although one book I have says they are part of the lilly family, although that might be out of date now).


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Daffodils appear around this time every year, giving them their name in some languages which translates into Easter Lilly (Swedish: påsklilja).  The French call this flower “jonquille”, which comes from the Latin name for one species, Narcissus jonquilla. The daffodil is also called “narcissus” after the Greek myth about Narcissus, a young man who became so obsessed with his own reflection in the water that he fell in and drowned.  The daffodil grew from the spot where he died.

The English name, “daffodil” doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with these other names, although Wikipedia does have a good possible explanation.  The name is arrived from an earlier name, “affodell” which came from “asphodel”. Perhaps the Dutch article, “de” was added to “affodell” and  we are left with “de affodil” = “daffodil”.

Daffodils grow in the wild here in Massachusetts, but it appears that they are not true wild flowers.  They aren’t in any of my North America Wildflowers books!  They are originally from Europe, North Africa and Asia.  They are so unique and striking, with a kind of trumpet-like corona and 6 petal-like leaves as a back drop.  There have been many different species cultivated, the coloring varies a lot.  The ones I came across on the Fens this week were all yellow.

Daffodil (Narcissus), Boston, April 2011

The daffodil is a member of the Amaryllis family, along with snowdrops.  This family of plants are bulbed with narrow grasslike leaves and showy 6-parted often lily-like flowers.  They are not lilies because their “petals” are attached to or part of the seed receptacle (Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers).

Daffodils have been  around for a long time, wow-ing their admirers and even inspiring poetry.  Here is William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” about this beautiful flower in 1804.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Daffodil (Narcissus), Boston, April 2011

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Spring has been taking its sweet time to decide to stay here in Stockholm.  Last week, the rain turned to hail and snow, which is the most sure-fire way to dash someone’s hopes that winter is over.

Perhaps winter will truly be over when the names of the flowers blooming do not have associations with winter; winter aconite, glory of the snow, Siberian squills.

I felt it was appropriate, what with the snow dropping from the sky, to post about a very common spring flower, the snow drop.  These are always a welcome sight, blooming at the start of spring along with crocuses right when you need a reminder that winter does not last forever.  The name is easy to remember (the same in English and it is in Swedish:  snödroppe) and they comfortably grow even when snow is still on the ground.

Snowdrops (snödroppar), Stockholm, Sweden

Snowdrop flower, Stockholm, Sweden

Snowdrop, Stockholm, Sweden

There are 20 species of snowdrops, this one I believe is the most common snowdrop, the Galanthus nivalis, native to Europe.  Linnaeus named the flower after ‘gala’, Greek for ‘milk’ and ‘nivalis’, which means ‘of the snow’.  There are no petals on this flower, just 2 sets of tepals (an outer part with 3 tepals and the inner part, marked with green at the tips).

Snowdrop, Stockholm, Sweden

A few facts about snowdrops:

  • After reading the wikipedia page here, I found that there is so much interest in this plant that there is a name for one who loves/collects them – galanthophile.  There are even gardens dedicated to snowdrops!
  • The alkaloid from their bulbs and flowers is called galantamine, an anticholinesterase.  This substance is believed to help alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimers patients whose dementia is hypothesized to be caused by a deficit of acetylcholine.  Galantamine inhibits the breakdown of this neurotransmitter.

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