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Posts Tagged ‘Wildflowers’

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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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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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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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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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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In late September last year, I visited Newport, Rhode Island. The weather was beautiful – the sun was strong, the sky was clear and blue, and it was a perfect chance to walk along the cliff walk where the mansions look over the ocean.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I noticed this bright yellow flower, which I was sure was a goldenrod, growing from the rocks. I was surprised to see a goldenrod by the ocean, since I’ve mainly seen them in sandy waste areas by the side of the road. This goldenrod was more plush than its relatives, with healthy leaves and full flower heads.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Its leaves are toothless and parallel-veined. It sometimes hybridizes with the Rough Stemmed goldenrod and can be found along the coasts near salt marshes, dunes and beaches. This one is a showy one, but on New York shores and south to Florida, they might not have such a plume-like head. There are many goldenrods in New England, but the key aspects to look for to tell them apart are the silhouette and whether the leaves are feather-veined or parallel-veined. Something new I learned while looking up this flower is that underneath the plant are  rhizomes – the plants close in proximity to each other all may come from the same original plant and may actually be clones.

Goldenrods signal the end of the summer. It was nice to see this flower out in late September – it can bloom through November in some parts – on a day when it felt like summer was going strong.

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

Seaside goldenrod, Rhode Island in September

I caught a bee enjoying the goldenrod nectar. Goldenrods are insect-pollinated – the bright yellow attracts the bugs and the sticky pollen sticks to their legs so it gets passed around. If you are interested in finding insects, goldenrods are a good place to start! But insects aren’t the only ones who have enjoyed consuming this plant. The leaves are edible and have been used for some healing remedies (the Latin name for goldenrod Solidago, which means to make whole, coming from its medicinal use in healing wounds). Apparently they also contain rubber, which was once used to make tires!

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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