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Archive for the ‘Family: Ranunculaceae’ Category

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)!

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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!

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I don’t know what the name of this flower is, it might be an escapee from a garden somewhere.

Daisy, Southern Sweden early May

Daisy, Southern Sweden early May

My guess is that it is a member of the daisy/composite family (Asteraceae or Compositae), the largest family of flowering plants. Flowers from this family are either disc florets (thistle-like), ray florets (dandelion-like) or both (daisy-like) (reference: Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe, Fitter et al). This one is daisy-like, with the blue ray floret surrounding the yellow disc floret in the center. The brownish stems had little hairs on them, they weren’t very tall. They look a lot like other asters but the leaves were not similar to any in my flower identification books. Also, this flower was solitary, whereas other asters have many flowers per stalk.

Daisy, Southern Sweden in early May

Daisy, Southern Sweden in early May

I looked up how to say “daisy” in Swedish and folkets lexikon gave me “tusensköna”. “Tusen” means “a thousand” and “skön” means “beautiful or pretty”, so together does tusensköna mean a thousand beauties? Interestingly, out of the 250 asters in the aster family, not one is native to Sweden although some have made a home here.

Edit June 14, 2017: I was wrong! This flower is more likely an Aneomone from the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family – see comments below. 

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In late April, I went for a walk in the woods in the suburbs of Boston where I have found White Trillium blooming at this time of year. I came across the trillium again, which is always a thrill, and I also found a new flower that I can add to my buttercup collection. This flower is called the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).

Marsh Marigold, Massachusetts April 2012

Here are a few facts about this bright yellow flower:

  • Large flowers (1 to 1.5 inches) are made up of 5 to 9 “petals” (actually sepals)
  • Glossy leaves are roundish and heart-shaped
  • Thick stem is hollow and succulent
  • Grows to a height of 8 to 24 inches
  • Can be found near swamps and brooksides April through June

Marsh Marigold, April 2012 in Massachusets

It turns out this plant’s leaves are a traditional New England spring green from the days of the pilgrims! Here are a few ways to prepare this plant that I found in the Peterson Field Guide on Edible Wild Plants:

  • Collect the young leaves before the plant has finished blossoming. Cook them 20-30 minutes or in 2-3 changes of boiling water
  • Young flower buds can be used as capers. Boil them 10 minutes in 2 changes of water and pickle them in hot water. Do not drain juice that buds have been pickled in.
  • Do not eat raw – this plant has a poison that is only removed after cooking it. Do not handle for long – it can irritate the skin.

Also, this plant has several names, which are interesting (thank you wikipedia for a great section on etymology!):

  • in the UK it is also called Kingcup
  • in Latin, Caltha palustris – palustris comes from “of the marsh”, because of its habitat
  • in the U.S., another name is Cowslip, which is also the name of Primula veris.
  • Marigold comes from its use in churches at Easter time in Medieval times – for Mary Gold.

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I saw these buttercups in Southern Sweden in late May.  This is yet another member of the Ranunculus family – the ‘little frog’ family (they grow where frogs live).  This species is called Ranunculus auricomus.  Auricomus means ‘golden hairs’.  In Swedish, the name for this flower is Majsmörblomma, which means May butter flower.  They look a lot like meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) but the flowers are stunted, almost as though some thing’s taken a bite out of some of the petals.  In comparison to other buttercups, this one has spear-shaped leaves, as opposed to round or heart-shaped ones.

Goldilocks Buttercup (Majsmörblomma), Öland, Sweden

Buttercups were another flower that I was taught to recognize as a small child.  People would say that if you hold the flower up to your chin and a yellow reflection appears on your skin that meant you liked butter.  It was a fun game to play!

Goldilocks Buttercup (Majsmörblomma), Öland, Sweden

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One of the more memorable flowers I saw on my trip to Öland in May was the Pasque Flower.  These small purple flowers bent their hairy heads downwards.

Pasque Flower (Fältsippa) Öland, Sweden

When I got closer, I peered into their faces and found a bright yellow center.

Pasque Flower (Fältsippa) Öland, Sweden

When they are done blooming, they look like they’ve burst and are a head of fluffy purple.

Pasque Flower (Fältsippa), Öland, Sweden

I was surprised to find out that they are from the buttercup family!  So different from the buttercups I have identified already.  The English name for this flower, Pasque, comes from Easter because it blooms in early spring. The Swedish name, Fältsippa, means literally ‘field anemone’.  The Latin name is ‘Pulsatilla pratensis’, pretensis coming from the word ‘pratum’ which means meadow.

Apparently this cute little flower has some toxic heart-slowing capabilities, so be careful!

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One flower that has stood out this spring has been the wood anemone.  This early blooming flower is bright white with a yellow center and grows spread out in woody areas.  These started blooming here in Stockholm in April.  Also called Windflower, in Swedish they are called Vitsippa, (vit = white, sippa = anemone).  They are in the buttercup family and like their siblings winter aconites, wood anemones can be poisonous (due to protoanemonin) causing gastrointestinal symptoms if digested.

Wood Anemone (Vitsippa), Stockholm, Sweden

The scientific name is Anemone nemorosa – coming from the Greek words ‘anemos’, which means ‘wind’ because the petals often fall off, and ‘nemo’ which means ‘grove’ because the way the flower grows in groves.  Most descriptions and pictures I came across online list the number of ‘petals’ (actually these are tepals) at 6 to 7.  You’ll see in my photos that the ones I found have 8 ‘petals’.  Perhaps this is a close relative, but I can’t seem to find a name.  At least I can be sure these are Anemones, there is no doubt about that.

Wood Anemone (Vitsippa), Stockholm, Sweden

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At first I thought this was the same flower I posted about in March (Winter Aconite) but actually this flower has more petals and they don’t curl inwards as much.  The leaves are dark green and heart-shaped.

Lesser Celandine (Svalört), Stockholm, Sweden

Native to Europe and Asia, the Lesser Celandine grows in damp places April – May in Southern to Central Sweden.  The flower is further divided into two groups, the diploid and tetraploid forms, which look alike but the tetraploids like shadier places and have bulbs at the base of the stalk.

Lesser Celandine (Svalört), Stockholm, Sweden

Celandine comes from the Latin word ‘chelidonia’ which means ‘swallow’.  When swallows return, the flowers bloom and then fade when the swallows leave.  ‘Ficaria’ means ‘fig’ and is named so because of the club shape on its root stalk.  In the past, this flower was called ‘Pilewort’ because it was believed to help treat hemoroids.  In Swedish, the Lesser Celandine is called Svalört, litteraly ‘ cool herb’.

I enjoyed the wikipedia article on this flower because of list of literary references that mention the lesser celandine.  I hope to compile a list for the flowers I find in the future as well!

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The sun was shining strongly today and it seemed like everyone in Stockholm was outside to soak it up.  This winter’s been especially long and I’ve been waiting for a sign that spring is on its way.

Wolf's bane, among the rocks and snow

Winter Aconite a kind of buttercup (Swedish: Vintergäck), Stockholm, Sweden

Today I finally saw the first sign of spring.  Walking through a park in Södermalm, I saw some yellow among the mud and melting snow.  My first impulse was to call them buttercups, which turns out to be true – they are of the buttercup family.  The official name of this species, native to Southern Europe and Asia, is Eranthis hyemalis, more commonly called Winter Aconite or Wolf’s Bane.  The latin name ‘hyemalis’ means ‘of winter’.

Winter Aconite (Swedish: Vintergäck), Stockholm, Sweden

Commonly known as Winter Aconite or Wolf's Bane

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Stockholm, Sweden

Interesting facts:

  • All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans, although the taste is acrid so poisoning risk is minimal.
  • According to Greek mythology, as Heracles was dragging Cerberus, the 3-headed watch dog of Hades, up from the underworld, the dog’s saliva dripped on the ground.  Where the saliva fell, this poisonous plant grew from the rocks.
  • Winter Aconite grows from a tuber, so several may be connected below the surface.
  • ‘Bane’ is something that  ’causes ruin or woe’, and a plant name containing ‘bane’ means that it is poisonous.  Several sources on-line have mentioned that many medieval Europeans believed that Aconite could protect you from turning into a werewolf, and perhaps this is why one name for it is wolf’s bane.  Wolf’s bane can also refer to a purple hooded flower, not only to Eranthis.
  • In Swedish, buttercups are called ‘smörblommor’ – literally ‘butter flowers’.  The Swedish name for Winter Aconite is ‘Vintergäck’ which literally means ‘winter elusive’.

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