Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Kallhällblomster -- Flowers of Kallhäll

Veronica spicata  (En: Spiked Speedwell, Sw: Axveronika). Lake Mälaren in the background.

I'm back from a family week in Sweden, where I went to meet, in particular, my wonderful new niece Sigrid. Amid all the bathing, football and tree-climbing with my nephew Finn, I took a few photos of plants.

This was at and around Kallhäll, a town on the western edge of Stockholm and the eastern edge of the vast, island-dotted Lake Mälaren. This post is complementary to my floral record of a visit to the same area four years ago:


A dewy morning at the bathing place at Ängsjö. One of the beautiful patterns that form on the leaves of Alchemilla (En: Lady's-mantle, Sw: Daggkapa), a genus that displays the property of ultrahydrophobicity. The Swedish name (=dew-cape) refers to this.

It's more common perhaps to see a single large globule of water in the centre of the leaf, as in Karin Boye's poem Wish:

The whole wide world is
an Alchemilla-cup,
and resting in its greenness
one clear water-drop.
That one, still, drop
is the apple of life’s eye.
Oh make me fit to look in it!
Oh make me purified!

It has been theorized that the purpose of ultrahydrophobicity is to keep the leaf-surface clean: the repelled water-drops tend to carry away dust and dirt.

As always, this leads to more questions. If ultrahydrophobicity is useful to Alchemilla (and a few other plant genera), then why don't other plants bother with it?

And why are so many Alchemilla leaves noticeably dirty, like these ones in Laura's garden? Does this mean that ultrahydrophobicity is useless at cleaning leaves, or does it mean Alchemilla is especially prone to get dirty, so has special requirements in the cleaning department?

Perhaps ultrahydrophobicity has more to do with protecting the leaves from diseases carried in rainwater?

While we're drifting, here's another water-patterned leaf, from my garden in the UK. This one is Geranium macrorrhizum.

OK, back to Kallhäll. Lots of Centaurea cyanus (En: Cornflower, Sw: Blåklint) on recently disturbed ground by a roadside. Perhaps sown deliberately in this instance, but the result looks much more natural than the usual sort of "wildflower mix". That said, the species was once quite common in south-central Sweden and made a mark on popular culture: it is the county flower of Östergötland.

In nearby Roslagen it has the local name of Blågubbar.  It's a moot point whether this means "blue blokes" or "blue lumps" (which is also the meaning of "klint": referring to the round knapweed-like knobble beneath the "petals"... the involucre, or whatever). The latter may actually have been the original meaning of gubbe, as in the Swedish word for strawberries, jordgubbar... earth-lumps. This meaning might then have got transferred to human males to produce the culturally important term that means "old bloke", "old boy"...


Mountain Currant (Ribes alpinum). The English and Latin names are a bit misleading: this species grows only in southern and central Sweden, whereas normal redcurrant (including its near relative downy currant) grows throughout, including up in the fells.

Mountain Currant can be distinguished by the smaller leaves and slightly-richer-red berries in smaller clusters. The berries are utterly flavourless, but are not poisonous.

Garden Redcurrant below, for comparison. From an open day at the herb garden in Almare Stäket.

One of the area's most spectacular common flowers, Natt och Dag (Melampyrum nemorosum).

Growing on my nephew's favourite rock, a visitor (garden escape) from E. Asia. Is it Sedum kamschaticum, Sedum aizoon or Sedum hybridum? I don't know, because I didn't know what to check.

Coincidentally I had just noticed one of these plants growing on a roadbank outside Frome, the evening before I set off for Sweden.

Trifolium arvense (En: Hare's-foot Clover, Sw: Harklöver).

Sedum telephium aka Sedum maximum (En: Orpine, Sw: Kärleksört), not yet in flower. The wild plant in Sweden has greeny-yellow flowers. In the UK, where Orpine is most likely an introduction, the flowers are red-purple.

Eupatorium cannabinum (En: Hemp-agrimony, Sw: Hampflockel).

In Sweden, a shoreline plant that, like so many other species, gets no farther north than here... On the shore of Lake Mälaren, at Frölunda Naturreserverat.

Sloes. Prunus spinosa (En: Blackthorn, Sloe, Sw: Slån). This is about the furthest north this species grows.

Heracleum mantegazzianum (En: Giant Hogweed, Sw: Jätteloka). An alien from the Caucasus, as common in Sweden as in the UK. It builds up its strength for several years, looking like this, before the impressive giant flowering stem is produced, after which the plant dies. 

Lysimachia nummularia (En: Creeping Jenny, Sw: Penningblad) , extremely common in these parts. Growing on the shaded side of my sister's apartment, where the snow lies longest.

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At 2:01 pm, Blogger Ray Davis said...

Paralleling those "blokes" and "lumps," in the USA, at least, cornflowers are synonymous with "bachelor's buttons." (The OED and random browsing suggest that the UK applies "bachelor's button" to a different, or at least wider, assortment of species.)

At 2:16 pm, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Oh that's interesting! According to the OED "knop" n.1 means button or rounded flowerhead, among other things.. origin of "knapweed", to which family the cornflower belongs. Perhaps "knops" are felt to be intrinsically male in character, like "knobs" in vulgar parlance.


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