Monday, February 17, 2014

flowers from Jämtland (July 2013)

A few more photos from my stay in Jämtland last July:

Angelica sylvestris

Wild Angelica (Strätta, Angelica sylvestris). One of the most characteristic plants of Norrland.  Often, as here, flushed pink. Grey Alder in the background. 

Dianthus deltoides

Maiden Pink (Baknejlika, Dianthus deltoides). Quite common in villages, road-verges, old farmsteads, pastureland... anywhere, in short, that human beings have managed to win back from the blanket forest.  

Trichophorum alpinum

Cotton Deergrass (Ullsäv, Trichophorum alpinum, formerly known as Scirpus hudsonianus). Common in northern Sweden. Once recorded in Scotland (a bog in Angus from 1791 - c. 1813), but long extinct. An extremely beautiful sight, I thought.

This and the next two photos were taken at the boggy pools in Döda Fallet (The Dead Falls), site of the former Storforsen, a spectacular waterfall on the Indal river. Magnus Huss ("Vild Hussen") began the construction of a bypass canal in early 1796; the idea was to provide a safe channel for floating timber. But the heavy spring melt leaked into the unfinished canal and rapidly eroded the glacial subsoil, diverting the whole course of the river away from the falls and back along the route it had probably occupied prior to the last Ice Age. The lake Ragundasjön was drained in four hours, Storforsen was left high and dry. Despite a 50-foot high flood wave, no-one was killed.

Vild Hussen has become a romantic anti-hero in Jämtland mythology. In the myth as I've probably misremembered it, Vild Hussen rode ahead of the flood wave on his white stallion, crying out to the peasant farmers down-river to abandon their crofts. Nevertheless, his hubris was punished. A few years later, he rowed out on the new river, was swept away and drowned - no oars were found, either because enemies (made in the bitter disputes that accompanied the canal construction) waylaid him and removed them, or else because he deliberately took his own life.

Eriophorum angustifolium

 Common Cottongrass (Ängsull - Eriophorum angustifolium). This is one of the two really widespread cottongrass species. The other one will crop up further down this post.

Eriophorum angustifolium with Trichophorum alpinum

Polygonum vivipara

Alpine Bistort (Ormrot - Polygonum vivipara). The upper part of the inflorescence has white flowers, the lower part bulbils. This is the usual form, here growing above the earth-cellar in our garden, along with Wild Strawberry, Zigzag Clover, and Harebell. Compare it to the one I saw near the top of Åre.

Thlaspi caerulescens, fruits

These elongated fruiting heads, often flushed pale pink, were always an arresting sight on the wilder garden slopes. They were a reminder of the spring flowers that, arriving in July or August, I never got to see. These spring flowers included Hepatica and Lily-of-the-Valley (you can see its leaves in the background); and also this plant, which is Alpine Pennywort (Backskärvfrö, Thlaspi caerulescens). In this last case, however, I'd occasionally find a later flowerer, perhaps stimulated to re-bloom because of injury from scythe or strimmer.  This happened in 2013, and hence the picture below. The plant when in flower is much slighter and less eye-catching than when in fruit.

Thlaspi caerulescens (formerly known as Thlaspi alpestre, until that name was shown to be illegitimate) is a plant with a puzzling distribution. In  the UK it occurs in a few widely separated upland localities from Mendip to Rhum.  In most cases (but not all) it's associated with high levels of heavy metal pollution; for example, lead or zinc spoil-heaps. How a plant with such apparently limited seed-dispersal techniques ever arrived in these remote places is a mystery.  Anyway, it's generally supposed to be native. Elsewhere the main native populations are in mountainous central Europe: - the Alps and Carpathians. In Scandinavia its history is totally different. Here it's accepted as an introduced plant, first noticed in 1840. It has since spread widely and now grows all over Scandinavia in all sorts of environments (e.g. here on a calcareous slope in open woodland). The contrast between the unfussy vigorously-spreading alien population in Sweden and the tiny, vulnerable pockets in the UK could hardly be greater.

Thlaspi caerulescens, flowers

And now, two bellflower puzzles.


Campanula rotundifolia

I know these aren't great pictures, but bear with me. These are the flowers of the two most common bellflowers in this area. Above: Harebell (Blåklocka, Campanula rotundifolia). Below: Spreading Bellflower (Ängsklocka, Campanula patula). Both of them were growing in a dry roadside ditch filled with Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum), a plant that loves the roads of Norrland so much that it usually devours them in the end.

(Spreading Bellflower is another plant with a peculiar distribution. In the UK it occurs patchily in the south with a clear centre in the Welsh Marches from Shropshire down to Monmouthshire. This is such an unusual distribution pattern that it has prompted  much discussion of whether the plant is truly native or an ancient introduction. But when you look at its global distribution it makes a lot more sense. C. patula is emphatically a continental species; its heartland is approximately Belarus/Ukraine. It evidently dislikes being near any salty sea with tides: the Baltic is OK, but it detests the North Sea, the English Channel and above all the Atlantic, so is not found in Ireland, Scotland, Norway, N. France, SE England, East Anglia, Belgium, The Netherlands, North Germany... It is much commoner in Sweden than in the UK, but in both countries it's basically a midland plant.)

Campanula patula

Anyway. the puzzle concerns the plant below, which was growing between the two others in the same roadside ditch. This is either a hybrid between the two - but this family hardly ever produce natural hybrids -or else it's a hypertrophied, six-petalled and pale blue C. patula, but I've never seen one like this before. What do you think?

Outsize Campanula patula?

Campanula glomerata, maybe

BELLFLOWER PUZZLE 2:   The picture shows a glorious patch of bellflowers at the edge of the garden, a patch that has inexorably spread during the last forty years. I think they are probably a garden variety of Clustered Bellflower (Toppklocka - Campanula glomerata), which is a popular cottage-garden plant in Sweden.

(It is also known as Byaskvaller  - "village gossip" -,  a name which is supposed to refer to its invasive patch-forming. Of course this is far too good a name to be limited to a single plant, and some people use it when talking about Himalayan Balsam (Jättebalsamin - Impatiens glandulifera).)

Anyway, my doubts about the identification concern the broad leaves and in particular the bristly stems. But I take heart from Stace, who remarks in his Flora that garden escapes of C. glomerata tend to be unusually robust and might be cultivars arising from hybridization with other species. So what do you make of this one?

Campanula glomerata (maybe) - basal leaves

Campanula glomerata (maybe) - stem

The final set of pictures were taken a few miles east of the Indal valley, in a cloudberry bog on the forested plateau back of Norrsjön.

Eriophorum vaginatum

Here's the other really widespread Cottongrass: Hare's-tail Cottongrass (Tuvull, Eriophorum vaginatum). Obviously distinguished by its single, mop-like spikelets and by its densely tufted habit.

Eriophorum vaginatum

We were here, of course, to gather "Norrland's gold". It was right at the start of the cloudberry harvest.
The plants like acid conditions and full sun, so the surface of bogs is ideal. This is the first really important forest harvest of the year, and the one for which it's worth investing in a fleet of small vehicles for casual workers to drive into the wilderness and pick berries all day and all night. (In our area the casual workers seemed to come mainly from Lithuania). Cloudberries are in high demand throughout Scandinavia but farm cultivation is still at quite a rudimentary stage and most of the crop is wild. Finland is the biggest producer, Norway the biggest buyer (high demand but not enough bogs of their own).  This harvest is followed a couple of weeks later by bilberries, and then in mid to late August by lingonberries (which for local people are the most important of all).

Rubus chamaemorus - cloudberry harvest

The dwarf shrub Cloudberry (Hjortron, Rubus chamaemorus) flowers in May/June. The berries (often only one per plant) ripen in mid-July. These were exceptionally early - 8th July 2013.

Rubus chamaemorus

Cloudberries are reddish when they're not quite ripe (above), but this is a good time to pick them - they're less likely to bruise and will soon ripen by themselves. When they're truly ripe the sepals bend away from the berry, which turns translucent and an amber colour (below). Later still the sepals reflex and the colour becomes paler still - almost cream. Soon after that they fall off the plant!

Rubus chamaemorus, ripening berry

leaves of Betula nana

Dwarf Birch (Dvärgbjörk, Betula nana), another regular component of the forest bogs.

Vaccinium oxycoccos, flowers

It's quite easy to miss, but there's another berry growing here on the sphagnum: the diminutive, trailing Cranberry (Tranbär, Vaccinium oxycoccos). Unlike the cloudberry plants it's still producing flowers. The fruit ripen very late. Here and there you can find last year's cranberries lying around, bletted by the winter and edible at a pinch. (But why would you, when you have a millionaire's dessert of fresh cloudberries to hand?)

Vaccinium oxycoccos, side view

Vaccinium oxycoccos, leaves and young fruit

Vaccinium oxycoccos, fruits of previous year

Dactylorhiza maculata

Heath Spotted-orchid (Jungfru Marie nycklar, Dactylorhiza maculata), another regular presence on these forest bogs. The large lip of the flowers, with the central lobe shorter or at any rate no longer than the side lobes, distinguishes it from Common Spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, which in Sweden is considered a subspecies and shares the same popular name. 

Dactylorhiza maculata, showing spotted leaves

Dactylorhiza maculata, white variant

Hej * run today along
river - then berry
picking on bog in forest
- eaten alive by
mosquitoes - blow up
mattress went flat in
the night but still
slept log - now canasta
followed by more sleep

Cirsium heterophyllum

And finally finally, Melancholy Thistle (Brudborste, Cirsium heterophyllum), growing beside the Indal river.

Cirsium heterophyllum

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At 7:08 pm, Blogger TC said...


Your wonderfully generous and detailed posts on plants ought to be prescribed for every reader who loves the world of nature but can no longer get out and about in it -- not to mention every (other) reader who perhaps still can.

Was immediately drawn into this one by the top picture of Angelica sylvestris. I've long been a great admirer of this hardy, common and oft overlooked plant -- as well as its close relative Angelica archangelica...though it must be admitted that personal sentiment is involved, here.

(And by the by, after a number of years of meaning to stumble down the dark hatch into the boiler room beneath the Ark of the Blogger Covenant, I've just now managed to descend and do what I had long intended -- put up links to your two terrific blog projects... for whatever that might be worth.)

At 5:05 pm, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Thanks TC, that's a great honour...:)

(how great an honour will only be apparent to those who bathe in the limpid waters of


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