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Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

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”.

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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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Recently I visited Gothenburg, Sweden. The weather was unusually nice for this time of year! We saw a lot of spring flowers there, this one really stood out as quite different from the rest.

I came across this funny looking pink flower growing in the shade under a tree, seemingly straight out of the dead leaves there. It was so odd looking because it didn’t have any green around it and I thought I was seeing things. This is a toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) or in Swedish, Vätteros. It is a member of the figwort or snapdragon family and grows April – May in woods or hedges. It is a parasite! It grows on roots, usually on Hazel. The flowers are 2-lipped and a pinkish-purple color. It looks like it doesn’t have leaves, but it does have leaves, they are just white. It is very cool to come across one of the few plants that does not require chlorophyl.

Toothwort or Vätteros, Gothenburg, Sweden

Toothwort or Vätteros, Gothenburg, Sweden

Where does it get its name? ‘Vätte’ in Swedish means goblin, and this goblin-rose gets its name because goblins spend most of their lives underground. The English name for it, toothwort, is not as interesting. ‘Wort’ is an old English name for plant, and ‘tooth’ refers to the root, which looks a bit like a bunch of teeth (see here). There are other flowers which are also called toothwort, so there can be confusion with the name. Let’s just call it goblin rose!

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We are now officially out of hibernation here in Stockholm. The sun is out, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming!

Last weekend we went for a walk near the sea. We saw these two diving sea ducks, a male and a female, taking turns going under. I love watching diving birds, waiting for them to re-surface, watching how easily and gracefully they slip under the water and pop back up. These birds are called Common Goldeneye in English and Knipa in Swedish. They nest in tree-holes, eat fish, crustaceans and insects and can be found in the Northern Hemisphere in coastal waters.

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Common Goldeneye (Knipa), Stockholm, Sweden in late March

I am no expert on birds. The wikipedia article is pretty good, in English here and Swedish here.

I looked up the word ‘knipa’ in the dictionary – it is a noun meaning a jam or a fix, and as a verb it means to pinch, win or obtain. I was surprised, these words don’t seem to have much to do with the bird! The entomology section of the wikipedia article in Swedish says that the name first was used in 1611 and may have been used to describe the way the wings sound when the bird takes flight (it is onomatopoeic). It might also be related to a  sailing term

I was surprised to see so many local names for this bird, every area seems to have its own language here! I’ve listed them below from the wiki article.

Skatand (Värmland), knijper, strandkniper, knip, kneip, knipoxe, knipånn, knipand, gnällvinge (Närke), isand (Bohuslän), dopping och doppand (Göteborg). The female has been called knipkärring and brunnacke.

In English, the name ‘goldeneye’ speaks for itself. It has been called ‘the Whistler’ given the sounds the wings make. Next time, I will wait to hear what they sound like when they fly – I was too focused on trying not to scare them off this time!

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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

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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

 

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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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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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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.

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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).

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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 almost missed them – they bloomed while I was busy and are just starting to lose their petals now.  There was an article recently in the Boston Globe about the magnolia trees on Commonwealth Avenue  which are certainly magnificent.  There is a place in my heart, though, for the magnolias on Marlborough Street (parallel to Comm Ave) because I lived there once and that’s where I fell in love with them.  I took a few pictures of the magnolias still blooming May 2nd, 2011.

Magnolia on Marlborough

Magnolia Flower

Magnolia Flowers, May 2, 2011

Magnolia in the Back Bay

Magnolia Flower, without petals

I posted last year about the magnolia trees blooming in North Carolina in March, check it out for some more background information on magnolias.  It’s interesting to compare the species – the ones in Boston are clearly different.

Here’s a little more from the Peterson guide (1958 edition) about magnolias – thank you Aunt JoAnn!

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There are now flowers blooming everywhere here in New England, the sun is out and the temperature has risen to a bear-able level.  I sat outside on a picnic blanket the other day, it was a little too cold after some time, but it was nice to get out of the apartment!  I saw these violets as I was looking for a place to sit – I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t slowed down a bit.

Violets, Boston, MA

Now back at my place, I’ve been trying to identify which violet I saw.  There are about 900 species, and hybridization is common, so it might be difficult to pinpoint which one!  There are some clear defining features, though, that might help me narrow it down.

1. Purple flowers.  Unlike the Wild Pansies I found in Stockholm, this violet is just one color

2. These violets were “stemless” – meaning the leaves and flowers were on separate stalks

3. The flower stalks were much taller than the leaf stalks

4. The leaves were heart-shaped with a nearly closed notch

5. The bottom petal was shorter than the rest

6. The lateral petals were bearded (had little hairs on them)

From my Peterson’s guide, the only one that fits well is the Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucullata).  I did find this flower near the Fens, where it is quite damp and this flower is found in wet meadows, springs, bogs in most of the area from April to June. The lower petal is shorter than the rest and flower stalks are longer. The description says the Marsh Blue Violet has lateral petals that are darker toward the throat, with beards “clavate” (like small clubs).  I’m not sure if this fits… maybe it is a hybrid.

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