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Lupine or Blomsterlupin

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.

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.

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

The cowslip or gullviva in Swedish is well known by many here in Sweden. I found it blooming in the grassy area between two buildings in Stockholm in May, all of the golden flowers pointing down hill towards the sun. They say this flower’s English name was given to it because it was likely to see it growing in cow dung or in slippery and boggy land.

Cowslip (Gullviva), Stockholm, Sweden in May

Cowslip (Gullviva), Stockholm, Sweden in May

Peering into the flower, you can see 5 orange-red spots. But mostly these flowers keep their heads down, all bunched at the top of a 10 to 25 cm hairy stem, dangling above a mass of wrinkly, downy, egg-shaped leaves.

cowslip2

Cowslip (Gullviva), Stockholm, Sweden in May

The cowslip has 2 kinds of flowers – ones on short stalks and ones on taller stalks. The short flowers must cross-fertilize with the tall ones for a good seed set (self-fertilization won’t lead to good offspring).

Cowslip (Gullviva), Stockholm, Sweden in May

Cowslip (Gullviva), Stockholm, Sweden in May

A few random facts (from Blommor i Sverige by Janzon and Mossberg):

– Gullviva is the official flower of the Swedish province Närke

– It has been used as a stimulant, cosmetic and to cure sicknesses.

– You can eat the leaves like spinach or kale.

– The flowers and their nectar were once used for making wine.

– Gullviva was once called Saint Peter’s Keys based on the story that St. Peter dropped his keys to heaven and lost them. The angel who went to find them was helped by the flower that grew up around where the keys were dropped. This flower may look a little like a golden set of keys.

This purple flower began to bloom at the end of April but last week the population really exploded! I had a hard time identifying it, for some reason I completely missed it in my Flower book. Thanks to http://www.artportalen.se/plants/, I found out that this flower is called Stor Nunneört in Swedish and Pink Corydalis in English (Corydalis solida). Another name for it in English is ‘Bird-in-a-bush’. The Swedish name means Nun Herb perhaps due to it being found in cloister areas.

Corydalis (stor nunneört) May in Sweden

Corydalis (stor nunneört) May in Sweden

A member of the fumitory or bleeding-heart subfamily within the larger Poppy family, it has distinctive tubular e-lipped spurred flowers typical of the fumitories. The flower was a darker purple early in its bloom and now has turned more pale purple. Some may consider it a weed, some use it in their gardens. It grows in moist areas in the early spring and has unique fern-like leaves that serve as a nice ground covering.

Corydalis (stor nunneört) Leaves, May in Sweden

Corydalis (stor nunneört) Leaves, May in Sweden

corydalis1

Corydalis (stor nunneört) April in Sweden

This patch of land has not been mowed in a while. It has been completely overtaken by corydalis and bumblebees are quite busy enjoying them. I love flowers that look simple from far away, then closer up you notice they are much more complicated.

Corydalis (stor nunneört) May in Sweden

Corydalis (stor nunneört) May in Sweden

 

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. 

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.

 

Here in Sweden it appears that the spring flowers have (finally!) decided to wake up. As usual, the winter has been sticking around quite late this far north. But the little dots of color popping up here and there make up for the wait.

coltsfoot2

Crocuses have started to bloom and snowdrops have arrived as well. One flower I came across just last week is a new one for my early spring collection. The name in English is Coltsfoot, in Swedish it is quite similar – Hästhov (horse hoof). Its Latin name is Tussilago farfara. Tussilago means ‘cough suppressant’ (recognize ‘tussis’ from pertussis? it means cough), due to the plant’s medicinal uses. The name in Swedish and in English could be due to fact that the leaves (not shown here) are in the shape of a horse’s hoof. Another explanation could be that hästhov is a corruption of hosthäva, which means ‘cough enhancer’ (reference).

Coltsfoot (Hästhov), Stockholm, Sweden in April

Coltsfoot (Hästhov), Stockholm, Sweden in April

At first you might think these flowers are dandelions, but a closer inspection reveals them to be very different. One clue that they are not dandelions is that they appear earlier in the year. Second clue is their leaves – there are no leaves when the flower is blooming – the leaves appear later – and when they do appear, they are very different in shape. Lastly, the stalk of the Coltsfoot is always hollow and leafless. In the above photo you can see the reddish scales. Coltsfoot grows in ditches and in waste ground, often damp areas near water. I found these flowers on an untended piece of land that was not far from the sea North of Stockholm. Coltsfoot blooms from March until May in Southern and Central Sweden (up to Jämtland). In the U.S., this flower can be found South to Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and flowers appear March through June.

Uses: cough suppressant/cough drops/cough syrup (boil fresh leaves and add sugar to the extract), tea (dried leaves), seasoning (dried burned leaves), poison (toxic to the liver, especially in children, due to alkaloids), a tobacco substitute (the leaves can be smoked, used in World War I), a confectionary product (Coltsfoot Rock, rock candy from the U.K. flavored with the coltfoot leaves), and  fermented wine. Quite a range of uses! (reference: Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants).

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

Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil

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