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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

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.

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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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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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Over the weekend, I went walking in the woods in central Sweden. When we crossed a small dirt road I came across some lupines in full bloom.

Lupine, Central Sweden, September

Lupine, Central Sweden, September

The Swedish name is quite similar to the English name, they’ve just added ‘blomster’ which means ‘flower’ to the front of it.  But where does ‘lupine’ come from? Lupine (or lupinus, its Latin name) means ‘of wolves’. According to wikipedia, there could be 2 possible reasons for having this name. One reason could be that because of the plant’s toxicity, it killed livestock like wolves do. Another explanation for the name comes from the belief that lupines suck all the nutrients from the soil killing the things around it, like wolves kill livestock. In reality, lupines return much needed nitrogen to the soil, and maybe just got this name because it is often found in waste areas where there is not much else growing (like sandy roadsides).

This plant has the skull and crossbones next to it in my Edible Wild Plants book – even though lupines have pea-like flowers, they cannot be substituted for peas! They contain a poisonous alkaloid and should not be consumed.

Lupine, Central Sweden, September

Lupine, Central Sweden, September

I love getting up close and noticing the intricacies of the flower. They look blue from afar but actually have a bit of purple and white on them as well. They are most commonly a bluish-purple but can vary in color from white to pink. Apparently a lupine population will shift from multicolored to blue over time, this is because the genes for blue color are dominant and the white or pink genes are recessive.

All the resources I have on wildflowers say that this plant blooms June-July, but I saw it going strong in mid-September in Sweden! I am not sure what species this was, but most sources say these can be garden escapes and not originally wild. That being said, all lupines found in Europe have technically already escaped, since they originally came from North America in the 1800’s. I have seen these beautiful flowers along the highway in New England – what a sight to see on a stretch of nothing much else.  I have a special place in my heart for lupines because I grew up with the book ‘Miss Rumphius‘ by Barbara Cooney. If you are a lover of nature and flowers and the world’s beauty, you will enjoy this children’s book.

An excerpt:

‘When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live by the sea’

‘That is all very well, little Alice’ said her grandfather, ‘but there is a third thing you must do.’

‘What is that?’ asked Alice.

‘You must do something to make the world more beautiful,’ said her grandfather.’

And Alice Rumphius goes on to travel the world and spreads Lupine seeds to make the world a more beautiful place.  Dear reader – whoever you may be – when you see a lupine, or any flower for that matter, remember that you should go out and do something to make the world a more beautiful place! But don’t spread lupine seeds – they are alien to Sweden and may threaten native flora by taking over their habitat.

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In mid-July, I went for a walk near my home in Stockholm and spotted this frilly flower by the side of a path on a hill.

Knapweed

In English, it is called Brown Knapweed and in Swedish it is called Rödklint.  ‘Knap’ and ‘klint’ are both old words meaning a small hill or crest of a hill, which seems quite fitting since I found it on a hill. It also grows in meadows and roadsides, anywhere in Southern and Central Sweden. It isn’t ‘röd’ (meaning ‘red’ in Swedish) but more of a purple color.

Knapweed1

This plant grows to between 30 and 80 cm high and has narrow leaves at random intervals on the stalk. The flower is what drew me to it – with its frilly head of what looks almost like purple hair. Looking closer, I liked the way the flower grows out of the ‘blomkorg’ (=literally flower basket, but meaning flower head), which looks like an acorn.

Ants enjoy eating the nutritious fruit and in this way help to spread the plant’s seeds. In the winter, the fruit in the flower head serve as food for birds.

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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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Northern Flicker

It has been so long since I last posted! My camera broke and the winter arrived, so I went into hibernation. I have been so inspired lately by the beautiful birds at the bird feeder, that I’ve decided to go into my archives to try to identify some birds I have photographed.

These photos were taken in September in Boston. I had some trouble identifying this bird at first, but thank goodness for google! I googled “brown bird black spot chest” and found it right away. This Northern Flicker is quite distinctive because of its spots and red nape crescent on the back of the head, which you can just barely make out in one photo. I had seen this bird foraging on the ground, but it turns out it is a woodpecker that also looks for insects on the ground. Flickers are large woodpeckers that are often seen on the ground in open areas (reference: Sibley Guide to Birds).

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

I couldn’t tell right away if it was a Yellow-Shafted or Red-Shafted Flicker because I didn’t catch it flying to see the under part of the wings. But odds are that this is a Yellow-Shafted (Taiga/Eastern) Flicker because I saw it in Massachusetts and the face is brown, not gray. This is a female Flicker because the face is all one color, there is no black malar (the feathers along side of the lower jaw) as is found in male Yellow Northern Flickers (the malar is red in Red-Shafted males). For more information, check out the website www.eol.org.

In this photo, you can just catch the red mark on the back of the neck. She is in the process of looking for insects in the grass, most likely ants.

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

Northern Flicker, Boston, MA in September

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This sturdy weed has been growing along the path on my way to work – first seen in June but is still growing now at the end of July. I identified it as the rough-fruited cinquefoil, a member of the Rose family and introduced from Europe. The Latin name is Potentilla recta, “recta” meaning “erect”, to distinguish it from the common cinquefoil, which has prostrate stems. “Cinquefoil” has the word “cinque” in it, which in French means 5 because the plant has radially 5-parted leaves.

Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil, Boston, MA in June

The flowers are pale yellow in a flat terminal cluster and large (1/2-1 inch). The plant is hairy, very leafy and many-branched. You can see that it’s growing in a gravel-ly, sandy place by the road, and for some reason the lawn-mowers missed it so I can enjoy it every day on my way to and from work!

Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil, Boston, MA in June

 

 

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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 interesting wildflower in a field in Western Massachusetts in June. At first, it blended in with the grass around it, but getting closer you can see the yellow flowers peaking out from the circular pods. The flowers are in the upper leave axils, the leaves grow in pairs, and the plant grows to between 8 and 20 inches tall. Native to this area, it is a member of the Snapdragon family.

Yellow Rattle, Western Massachusetts in June

The “flat bladder-like envelope” is formed from the calyx (joined sepals) around the base of the flower [ref: Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers]. This “envelope” becomes inflated when it has fruit. The flower gets its name because the seeds will rattle in the pod. The flower guide says the upper lip is often tinged with violet and the lower lip spotted, but the ones I found appeared to be all yellow.

Yellow Rattle, Western Massachusetts in June

I often get a lot of information from looking up the Latin name on Google (Rhinanthis crista-galli), but this is the first flower in a long time that didn’t have a wikipedia article listed. I did find it on wikipedia commons here with a list of different names in other languages. The Swedish name, Ängsskallra, means “meadow rattle”, and the other languages also call this flower a rattle. I really like old scientific drawings of flowers, here is one in Italian and here is one from 1913 with some more detailed description.

Yellow Rattle, Western Massachusetts in June

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