Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flowers of Roslagen - July 2014

Above: a distant Ek (Quercus robur, Pedunculate Oak) framed by aspen, birch and pine.

These pictures were taken in or near Harö in Roslagen. (Coastal edge of Uppland, more or less the northern part of the Stockholm archipelago). Harö means "Hare Island". It isn't quite an island now, but it probably was until recently; the land rises fast along this coast. Nevertheless, the sea is always nearby, and Roslagen's mild climate allows many plants of south/central Sweden to flourish further north than elsewhere. The spectacle of oak and ash trees - and roses! - growing among the usual pines and spruces is extraordinary to a Norrlander's eyes.

Norrland was one pole of comparison/contrast for me. The other was the UK. As often, I noticed how different the "British" species are  in Sweden.

The oaks here are comparatively slim and elegant, that is if you can imagine Quercus robur being elegant! This slimness aligns them to the surrounding pines and birches, as you can see in the photo above , a sort of convergent habit that must reflect Sweden's brief but consistent growing seasons.

The roses likewise grow upright, without the support of hedgerows (which don't exist here), and look rather precarious on their ridiculously slender stems.

I reflect that even the familiar species of our own homelands are not fully known to us if homeland is the only place we've seen them. What do they know of oak trees, who only England know?

"Roslagens Ros": Wild rose among spruce trees. I venture with trepidation into the genus Rosa, but I'm pretty sure this is Nyponros (Rosa caesia ssp. glauca, Glaucous Dog-rose). Common in south-central Sweden, and further north along the coast.

[The name "Roslagen" , however, does not have anything to do with roses. "Ros-" perhaps originally meant "the people who row". It probably lies behind the Finnish name for Sweden ("Ruotsi") and - less certainly - the name "Russia". The theory about the latter is that it derives from the "Rus", rulers of 10th Century Kiev, who in turn are thought to have originated as a bunch of Swedish emigrants (i.e. Vikings) from these very shores.]

A typically spectacular show of Blodnäva (Geranium sanguineum, Bloody Cranesbill) alongside Natt Och Dag (Melampyrum nemorosum), a showy cow-wheat that does not occur in the UK, or in most of Norrland, but is extremely common here. The Swedish name, which means "Night and Day", needs no explanation!

(Wood Cranesbill - the celebrated "Midsommarblomster" - is the predominant large cranesbill throughout Sweden. There's plenty of it here too. Meadow Cranesbill is a relatively scarce plant, only found in the south.)

A seedling of Lönn (Acer platanoides, Norway Maple), a native tree here.

En (Juniperus communis, Juniper) growing as a small tree at Holmen.

Spenört (Laserpitium latifolium), a species that does not occur in the UK.

The large many-rayed umbels were highly appreciated by the flower-arrangers amongst us. Spenört was the most prominent umbellifer in these parts, along with Ground-elder, which grew in great quantities. The Swedish population of Spenört - mainly in the east, where it's associated with deciduous woodland - is rather isolated from the plant's heartland; L. latifolium is essentially a central European plant that occurs from W. Russia right across to N. Spain. According to Wikipedia it is a submontane plant that rarely grows at altitiudes below 400m. But here in Roslagen it's growing at sea-level.

It has no popular English name, but is sometimes called Broad-leaved Sermountain or Broad-leaved Laserwort (both names distinguish it from L. siler, an alpine species of south-central Europe).

Spenört 2. Another view, but too nice to leave out. What looks like a lake is actually an inlet of the sea.

Spenört 3. Umbels.

Spenört 4. I know it's blurred, but this was the only photo I took that showed the impressive inflated petioles, somewhat resembling Angelica but pure green in colour, as are the rounded, hairless stems.

I'm not sure of the name's origin but I know "Spene" means "teat".  Spenört, Angelica and Lovage were formerly fed to cattle to increase their appetite (and hence milk production).

Kirskål (Aegopodium podagraria, Ground-elder). From a distance the flat tops distinguished it from Spenört. Ground-elder is of course a pernicious garden weed, and in the UK is believed to be always introduced, but in Sweden it also occurs as a native, and that was the impression I got here.

Bulbils of Tandrot (Cardamine bulbifera, Coralroot Bittercress). The plant flowers, briefly, in the spring.

Backlök (Allium oleraceum, Field Garlic). Here at its prettiest, when the flowers are still in bud but the bulbils are rosy-pink.


"On a flowering island in Roslagen's bay..."


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