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Archive for the ‘Family: Lily’ Category

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.

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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.

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

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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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In May, I made a quick trip to Copenhagen and spent an afternoon walking around the city. At Kastellet, some showy yellow flowers were growing wild in the grass which turned out to be wild tulips. In Danish, they are called Vild Tulipan, the latin name is Tulipa sylvestris. Sylva means forest, and refers to how the flower grows in forests and parks.

Wild Tulip, Copenhagen, Denmark in early May

The wild tulip has linear leaves that are grass-like with no prominent veins, grooves or ridges. The flowers are solitary on a leafless stalk and grow April through May in dry grassy and bare places in the Southern part of Northern Europe (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Channel Isles, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark).

Wild Tulip, Copenhagen, Denmark in early May

Here is drawing of the flower and its parts from 1885. A member of the lily family, this flower looked a little more droopy with spread out petals than cultivated ones. When I think of tulips, I think of the Netherlands. The wikepedia article on the history of the tulip (and of tulip mania) is quite thorough, if you are interested. The first bulb is believed to have been sent from the Ottoman Empire to Vienna in the mid-1550’s. By the late 1500’s, the Dutch were cultivating the tulip and it became very popular. I hope to go to the Netherlands when the tulips are in bloom to get some good pictures there one day!

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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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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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I’ve fallen behind – new flowers have bloomed and I haven’t had time to document them all!  The Siberian squills are still blooming everywhere here, and among them you can find patches of yellow star-of-Bethlehem.

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem, or Vårlök, Stockholm, Sweden

These flowers were named Gagea lutea after the English naturalist Sir Thomas Gage and lutea for yellow.  The Gagea genus is in the Lilly (Liliaceae) family, which is made up of spring bulbs, and its plants grow in Europe and Western Asia.  This member of the family is one of Scandanavia’s most common lily plants.  In Swedish, it is called vårlök, which literally means ‘spring onion’.

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem, or Vårlök, Stockholm, Sweden

In the 1700’s, the bulbs of this flower could be dried and ground to make bread.  (According to Anwisning til Wäxt-Rikets kännedom, 1792). I found the Swedish ‘Virtual Flora’ site for plant identification to be very helpful when I was learning about this flower (see here).

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