Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gooseberries and Peacock eyes

Two weeks ago I returned from Sweden. I was there for almost a full month this year, which I am truly grateful for. It gave an opportunity to reconnect with my family that has left a lasting impact.
We stayed in my parents old house right outside Stockholm. We were blessed with sweet, fresh summer weather and did lazy day trips around town. I took lots of pictures, although perhaps not completely representative of Sweden as a whole. Just more random shots of what I take pics of anyway - plants, birds, butterflies and other critters!

An Elderberry variety with red drupes of berries, Sambucus racemosa, with rich deep red fruits. They are toxic, at least to people.

The Sambucus bushes were growing in a field next to an old cherry orchard outside a restaurant (Brostugan at Kärsön), and I picked the cherries that were within reach and we had them for dessert. The trees were enormous. The kids were in the playground and I explored with my camera.

Next to the Elderberries the field was covered in thistles, which in turn were covered by all sorts of fluttering things. The Eurasian Ionachis Io butterfly is so beautiful and the colors are so saturated, they stand out from the picture as if you had enhanced it too much. In Swedish it's called Peacock Eye, Påfågelöga.

Outside my parents house I found the leaves of a dear friend. Hepatica Nobilis, Blåsippa, one of the most Swedish flowers of all, are of course done flowering months ago. In the US it's almost identical - Round-lobed Hepatica, which I took some pictures of earlier this year.

This little wild Geranium covered the ground in their very neglected yard and elsewhere. The leaves turned a pretty red, possibly because of the draught - there was no rain for 3 weeks straight in Stockholm, and birch trees and lilacs were dying. The Swedish family is called Näva, but I couldn't figure out which one of a few it was.

At another cafe, just by the waterside, the kids spent the afternoon feeding the ducks in the water. I looked in my bird book in the Duck section but could not find this black and white guy. I had to look through the entire book before finding out that this was the Eurasian Coot - sothöna in Swedish.

A common cutie, Great Tit, was feeding from the tables at the cafe. Talgoxen is spread all over Eurasia, does not usually migrate, has many many subspecies.

It's always a pleasure to taste the fruits and berries from back home. I hadn't had Gooseberries in a looong time. These were planted outside my friend's apartment complex for everyone to enjoy, and were so sweet, juicy and ripe.

Gooseberries are still somewhat illegal in Massachusetts, since they are a shared host of White Pine Rust. At some point Gooseberries and Currants, wild or cultivated, were being pulled up in an effort to eradicate this disease, because of the damage it caused to the forest industry. I say somewhat illegal, because it seems that science has proven that the Ribes species were not as detrimental as previously thought, and more and more cities and counties are now easing up on the law. I look forward to the day when I have a garden big enough to host a number of these plants.

Gooseberries have a long history in Europe. There were hundreds of varieties and many were unique to each country. The berries were supposedly large as plums and so delicious that poems were composed about them. Then came a pest and killed almost all of the older cultivars, and Gooseberry have not yet recovered its' former glory. In the US I have seen it once in a Farmer's Market, but it seems fairly unknown yet. You eat them with cream or make jam out of them.

Another favorite place of mine is Bergianska Trädgården, the "Bergian" Gardens. Now funded by the University, it has a section of plantings laid out to illustrate the plant families, but a lot of that were not in shape right now. My favorite part is the Herb, Medicinal and vegetable gardens, which looked fantastic as always. This kind of old fashioned Herb garden is so beautiful and so full of history and tradition. Many herbs, both culinary and medicinal, were brought to Sweden with the monasteries in the early Middle ages, and that's were the plant knowledge resided.

Here is Milo running around the formal plantings, on a quite hot summer's day.

At last, some pictures from a Apple Cider Farm west of town, were a little tiny pond were surrounded by buzzing life. The Swedish version of Joe Pyeweed, Hampflockel, is just as attractive to nectar feeders as their American cousins. The Peacock Eye is battered, maybe at the end of its' life, and it didn't waste a minute here.


  1. How interesting to see flowers in Sweden so similar to the ones we have here in northern New York. I don't think we have that lovely Peacock's Eye butterfly, though. What a delight!

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