Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guelder Rose/ Almindelig Kvalkved

Guelder Rose, Bjerre skov/gb

Viburnum opulus

When winter comes and most fruits have fallen from the trees, the Guelder Rose still stands with its fine red fruits and richly coloured autumn leaves. The shrub forms underwood and edges in mixed hardwood forests in wet and mineral rich soil all over Europe. It thrives both in full sun and half shadow and stands wind and frost.

Guelder Rose, Bjerre skov/gb

It has got a lot of names in English: Cramp bark / Cranberry tree / Dog rowan tree / European cranberry bush / Guelder rose / High cranberry / Highbush cranberry / King's crown / May rose / Pempina / Pimpina / Rose elder / Silver bells / Snowball Tree / Water elder / Whitsun bosses / Whitsun rose / Whitten Tree / Wild Guelder rose.

The Guelder Rose was earlier ascribed to the honeysuckle-family, (like snowberry and elder) but genetic studies under Angiosperm Phylogeny Group have shown that it belongs to the Adoxaceae-family. The botanical name is Viburnum opulus. It is a species of Viburnum native to Europe and Asia. The common name Guelder Rose appears to have originated because a popular cultivar, the snowball tree, supposedly first originated in the Dutch province of Guelderland.
The White flowers of Guelder rose(wikipedia )

The white flowers are pollinated by various insects; the inflorescence reminds about the hydrangea. The seeds are dispersed by birds, and the leaves are often eaten by caterpillars. The shrub is also cultivated as a component of hedgerows, coverplantings, and as part of other naturalistic plantings in its native regions. Guelder Rose is a good bush in the garden, not just because of the fruits, but it is a good hiding place for birds and their nests. Guelder rose is spread both by seeds and root-suckers. Berry-eating birds ar very fond of the berries, especially winter birds like fieldfare and Bohemian waxwing. The berries are poisonous to humans. The leaves are often eaten by caterpillars.

Kvalkved/Guelder rose, Vestamager, Sjælland/gb
From September it stands with red glistening fruits which stay at the bush until January-February. First when the fruits begin to rot, they are very much sought after by birds.

The fruit is actually considered poisonous, but however used in some countries to make jelly. It is  very mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts (Plants for a Future).

 Practical use. The berries have anti-scorbutic properties. They turn black in drying and have been used for making ink. The wood was used for combs making combs in looms, tobacco pipes etc. From the straight branches were made pipe tubes and walking sticks, the strongest branches were used to make knitting needles. 

The berries were used as baits in bird traps.

Folk Medicine: The dried bark was used in a tincture, known as "Cramp Bark," to alleviate painful menstrual cramps.This herb was mainly used for treating feminine problems like menstrual cramps, postpartum discomfort, preventing miscarriages and internal hemorrhages and was used as a uterine sedative also.

The Nix ( Theodore Kittelsen, Norway 1904/wikipedia
Folklore: In Danish its common name is Kvalkved, an old name is Ulvsrøn and in folklore it is called Vand-hyld (Water-Elder). The God in the water stream, Noekken,  (the Nix) was said to lie in wait for people under the water-elder, playing enthralling music. The Nix was most dangerous to women and children.
If people had a stick of Guelder rose in their pocket, the underworld had no power over them.

Source: Brøndegaard, Etnobotanik, Folk og flora; Danmarks natur; Gyldendal, Politikens havebog, samt Wikipedia. 

photo Bjerre skov, Horsens in September : grethe bachmann
photocopy  from wikipedia

Friday, August 15, 2014

Women and Cats.....................

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

Robert A. Heinlein.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Svinkløv Badehotel, North Jutland

A Taste of Denmark.

Svinkløv Badehotel (Seaside Hotel) is one of the country's few intact relics from the fashionable seaside- and holiday life which became a must around the year 1900. The hotel is looking exactly like it was then, and the pretty main building is one of Denmark's biggest preserved wooden houses.


The position of the hotel is unique in a large preserved area and a beautiful nature far away from other habitation and less than 200 m from the North Sea.


All rooms are in light colours and Scandinavian interior  - and furthermore smokeless zones. The hotel is marked by alternative arts and crafts exhibitions. Svinkløv is famous for its excellent food, the cuisine has a very high standard with new menues and specialities every day.

photo: grethe bachmann

The Legend of the Holy Grail in a Danish Church

Viking Age
Skibet Church, Vejle

Skibet church, 'Rytterfrisen' (The Horsemen's Frieze') 1100s

(Above the Horsemen's frieze are two scenes from the New Testament, to the left Lazarus and to the right Christ and the disciples.)

During the ruling period of Valdemar Sejr and Valdemar the Great - between 1157 and 1241 - about 2000 stone churches were built inside the present borders of Denmark. (1700 old churches still exist.) The building activity was immense all over the country ; much influence and inspiration came from abroad, and some of it came from England. English master builders, stone masons and artists arrived - and they were responsible for some fine Anglo-Normannic inspired churches, especially in the north western part of Jutland.

One English artist might have travelled a little further down south - and he arrived to the location Skibet in the eastern part of Jutland, where a little stone church was built in the middle of the 1100s. Here he was possibly  the creator of some magnificent frescoes called 'Rytterfrisen' (The Horsemen's Frieze') , which is unprecedented in Denmark.

Skibet church. Two saddled horses and some horsemen riding slowly and with dignity to the north.

Skibet church. Some gallopping horsemen moving towards the jar, considered to be the key to the story. Behind is a city or a temple.

Hornslet Church, Aarhus

Hornslet church: A fully armed knight rides toward west, the crowned bedridden man recieves the Holy Communion from a cleric.

In Hornslet church north of Århus are frescoes from the first half of the 1200s, telling a similar story like in Skibet. It's a unique phenomenon that Jutland unlike the eastern part of Denmark is able to show those spectacular and dramatic scenes with horsemen.

The interpretation is open in both cases. Some have suggested that the story is from the colourful tale about the prophets - but both before and now it is believed that the frescoes are about the legend of the Holy Grail, which was known in Denmark already in the Viking period.

Hornslet church: A little angel in a medaillon above the window might represent the Grail with the blood of Christ, and the crowned man in the previous shown picture is the deadly sick king who can only survive in the virtue of the Holy Communion, and the knight to the left of the king is Percival riding out in search of the Grail. The war scene belov is one of the famous battle scenes from the legend's compulsory material.

Hornslet church. A dramatic battle scene in front of a town wall or a castle. In one of the castle towers an archer is shooting an arrow with great power.

Hornslet church. A part of the battle scene.

What the fine English artist supposedly painted in a little newbuilt church in Jutland in the middle of the 1100s is now one of very few medieval representations of the Holy Grail on Danish ground.

photo Skibet church + Hornslet church 2003/2007: grethe bachmann 
Trap Danmark: Vejle amt
Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bind 4
Gyldendals bog om Danmarks kirker.
Gyldendals bog om Danske kalkmalerier.

The Ravning Bridge, Vejle River Valley

Viking Period
The Ravning Bridge

The Ravning Bridge is a bridge from the Viking period, built in oak in ab 979 at the same time as Trelleborg, Fyrkat, Aggersborg and Nonnebakken, all being counted to Harald Bluetooth's ruling period. Seemingly they lost their military significance and fell into decay after ab. 5 years of use. The Ravning bridge was discovered in 1953; it is situated 10 km south of Jelling in Vejle River Valley and has a natural connection to the longitude road of Middle Jutland, called Hærvejen (The Army Road) and to the old roads southwards. The bridge is 760 metres long and 5 metres broad, and the building was characterized by an impressing accuracy. The sequences of the bridge only differed up to 5 cm from a straight line.

photo 240307: grethe bachmann

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Dark Variety of Silver-washed Fritillary in Bjerge skov south of Horsens.

Argynnis paphia: Silver-washed Fritillary/ Kejserkåbe; 
dark variety :  Argynnis paphia f. valesina
an orange male meets the valesina

In the month of  July the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)  is easy to observe in Bjerge/Bjerre skov, a forest south of Horsens. On this day in mid July there were numbers of the pretty orange male flying around among the brambles. The Danish name is Emperor's Robe, and the beautiful deep orange colour with the spots and stripes would fit an emperor very well.
But suddenly came a dark variety, which we had never seen before.There was even a date between an orange male and a dark silver-washed female upon the road. 

This dark variety was named by a famous English lepidopterist Frederick William Frohawk, who named it after his daughter Valezina and called it Argynnis paphia f. valesina.  This spectacular form occurs in a small percentage of females. It is quite distinctive in flight looking like an overgrown ringlet and has the common name of the Greenish Silver-washed Fritillary.

Argynnis paphia f. valesina
Frohawk was the author of Natural History of British Butterflies (1914), The Complete Book of British Butterflies (1934) and Varieties of British Butterflies (1938).  At seven he spotted and caught a rare Pale Clouded Yellow butterfly.  In ab. 1880 Frohawk concentrated on illustration and obtained his first commission for illustrating The Field. Frohawk was encouraged in his work by Lord Walter Rotschild, who later bought his water-colours of butterflies His butterfly collections are now part of the Rothschild collection in the Natural History Museum at London.

Argynnis paphia f. valesina

Silver-washed Fritillary/Kejserkåbe

The Silver-washed fritillary /Kejserkåbe in Denmark:
The spread of the Silver-washed fritillary is somewhat dispersed in Denmark. It has disappeared from large parts of Jutland and Funen. It was earlier widespread in hardwoods in all parts of Denmark.

Problems: The silver-washed fritillary is found in forest glades - and such glades should not be either drained, fertilized or sprayed with pesticides - but hay harvesting and extensive grazing during period would be beneficial. Livestock in the forest is also beneficial,since it brings light and warmth and improved conditions for the violet, which is the host plant of the Silver-washed fritillary.

In the last time of their flight period the Silver-washed fritillary flies often to other habitats, sometimes to residential areas.

The Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia)  is on the Danish red list, but it is neither protected or listed in Denmark.

Source: Fugle og Natur, Michael Stoltze; British wikipedia, 
photo: Bjerge/Bjerre skov July 2014: grethe bachmann     

Monday, July 21, 2014

Boller Castle Park, Roses

Louise Odier

I paid a visit to the lovely rose park at Boller castle the other day . The roses are beautiful  - of course they are - I love roses. They have a fantastic history and origin, and the scent of roses is the most beautiful scent in the world! 

The name of the rose in the first picture is "Louise Odier" -  and it is a socalled Bourbon rose.
The Bourbon rose derives from a small island close to Madagaskar, Ile de Bourbon (Its name today is Reunion).

It was a tradition upon this small island to plant roses as a hedge between the fields. The roses used for this purpose were the damascene rose "Rose des Quatre Saisons"  and  "Parson's Pink China". The China rose came to Ile de Bourbon in the end of the 1700s from China via India.

The French botanist Breon found in 1817 a plant with very beautiful flowers in one of the hedges upon the island, where the two rose species grew. He moved the rose back to his private garden and sent seeds to the royal gardner in Paris. From these seeds came the rose "Rosier de I'lle de Bourbon". It was a very vigorous plant with shiny pink half-filled flowers. From the damascene roses it had inherited a fine scent and its blooming in autumn.

The Bourbon roses were used for new crossing experiments by the European rose breeders - and in the 1800s several new Bourbon roses  arrived.

One of the most famous Bourbon roses is "Souvenir de la Malmaison". The name is a memory of empress Josephine, who  laid out a magnificent garden at the castle Malmaison outside Paris.

Below: various roses from the garden: 

Isabella Rossellini

Kitty Harkness
Astrid Lindgren

photo Boller Castle, 19 July 2014. grethe bachmann

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eurasian bittern / Rørdrum

 Botaurus stellaris


The Eurasian bittern or great bittern  is one of the most peculiar birds in Denmark. The Danish name is Rørdrum.

 It is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae, and it is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds AEWA applies.

The Eurasian  bittern is a medium-size heron with a lenght-striped,  goldenbrown pliumage. When it is disturbed it shows its striped underside and stretches the head and neck up into the air. This makes it almost invisible in the reed beds. The bittern is a rare sight, it is extremely well camouflaged, it lives very hidden and is very shy - but in return the male bittern delivers the mystic song in spring  -  in Denmark called PAUKEN - which is so strong that the sound can be heard for miles. 

The Eurasian bittern is spread in Europe and in a broad belt through Asia and North Africa, except in the northerh Scandinavia. It breeds spread in most of Europe, but is most numerous in eastern Europe, while it breeds only sporadically in the British Isles and in southern Europe. 

In Denmark the bittern breeds spread in most of the country, except Bornholm. The bird occurs in large reed beds and marshlands, and it is common at the fjords of West Jutland. The best locality in Denmark for the bittern is the birds sanctuary Vejlerne. Here are about one hundred pauking males. There is a good chance to experience these birds, especially in July, where they are flying around a lot. 

The Danish Eurasian bittern is probably a resident bird as far as the winter climate allows. If the habitats are frozen, the bittern has to seek other habitats, or it might overwinter primarily in western and southern Europe. 

The bittern's food is fish, amphibians and other little animals.  

photo:  habitat of the bittern in Lille Vildmose

Folklore/ Legend
No other bird in Denmark is surrounded by so much mystery as the bittern. Both the hidden ways of living, the owl-like flight and the strange voice, which sounds like the roar of a bull, have contributed to this mystery. People were scared of this mystic bird who had a voice as strong as any mammal, and furthermore it was  prancing around in the night hours - and when people met it in the dark of the night they were convinced it was a ghost.

The voice of the bittern created legends about the farmer's water cows roaring and yearning to get ashore.
A brutal landlord from Limfjorden was hated by everyone, and after his death his spirit was hazarding like a big black bird across the landscape, flying with silent wing beats and crying the hoarse scream of the bittern.

In the 1600s the voice of the bittern was compared to the roar of a bull, which is also seen in the Latin name Botaurus. With its beak stuck under wing or down under water, mud or eath its roar could be heard far away. 

The sound is also compared to deep tones from a far away bell buoy, or a foghorn, as when the wind is howling into a barrel. The voice of the bittern was called the rarest sound in Denmark, a strange hollow voice like the hooting of a distant steamer ,or the sound you made as child when you were blowing into an empty water bottle.  it is called the rarest sound in denmark , a strange hollow voice like the hooting of a distant steamer or like the sound you made as child when you blew in an empty water bottle, but only much more powerful.

The farmers took many omens from the voice, if it was heard early spring it would be a fertile harvest.
If the bittern was pauking in the reed rain and storm would come. If the bittern was pauking for a long time it meant that war would come. 

The claws were  - mounted in gold or silver- used as toothpicks. 

 photocopy: wikipedia

source: Brøndegårdsamlingen, folk og flora 2 ; DOF Danmarks fugle,

photo: grethe bachmann, Lille Vildmose, July 2014.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lille Vildmose in Himmerland, Northeast Jutland.

It was magnificent summer weather in late May and start June - and one of our first summer trips went to the Lille Vildmose in  Himmerland (Northeast Jutland). Lille Vildmose is a raised bog, it is an endangered habitat, not just in Denmark but also in Europe. A project LIFE+ focuses on securing the raised bog and to create conditions for the decomposed part of the raised bog to re-emerge in the long run. This area is the largest left raised bog of the lowlands in northern Europe, and it includes more than half the total raised bog in Denmark. Lille Vildmose is appointed as a Natura2000 area (7824 ha) and a Natura2000 plan has been prepared with a focus in keeping and extending the raised bog area.

From the reed beds sounds the voice of the bittern.

Eurasian Bittern 

When this is said the large moor in Himmerland is a wonderful place to visit, also because of the boardwalks across a big part of the area. It would be impossible to cross the moor without these boardwalks and bridges. The animal and plant life is very rich and you'll never know how much or what you'll see on such a tour. Birds of prey, like the golden eagle, the whitetailed eagle, the marsh harrier or the Eurasian hobby. We did not see the large birds of prey this time, but we heard the rare golden oriole. We did not see this beautiful yellow bird, but we later came to a place where we heard another rare bird. The strange voice of the Eurasian bittern sounded from the reed beds -  and a few moments later an Eurasian bittern flew above our heads and disappeared in the reeds. A rare sight. There are approximately about 22 Eurasian bitterns in Lille Vildmose right now. We heard its strange voice calling out like an angry  bull every five minutes.

No other bird in Denmark is surrounded by so much mystery. Both the hidden ways of its living, the owl-like flight and the strange voice have contributed to this. People were scared of this strange bird with a voice as strong as any mammal - and when it was strutting around in the night hours people thought they met a ghost. The voice of the bittern created legends about the Merman's cows, roaring and  longing for coming ashore. In the old days lived a landlord, named Mads Spejser, at Aggersborggård at Limfjorden opposite the town Løgstør. He was a brutal master and a nasty neighbour and very much disliked. His spirit is said to hazard like a dark bird across the landscape at night, flying with silent wing beats, uttering hoarse cries like the  bittern. 

New Observation Tower

A new observation tower has been raised in 2014,  called Brandtaarnet (the fire tower). Until the 1980s was here a fire watch tower, where a guard supervised the moor to observe if  there was fire or smoke. The new tower is a part of an ongoing and very comprehensive EU-LIFE nature-restoration project  Brandtårnet is the sixth observation tower in Lille Vildmose. It is 6-7 meter tall, and half as tall as the tower at the Vildmose Center at Vildmosevej. But it is tall enough since the moor is as flat as a panncake -  and there is a fine view across the earlier peat-extraction area, which during WWII gave work to 1200 men. Today it is a bird-rich restoration area, and from the new yellow tower it is possible to follow the rapid change of the nature area in these years.

The moor was earlier overgrown with birch which has now been removed. Only a few birches are allowed to stay in the landscape.

cloudberry, no flowers yet.
cranberry flowers
The plant life is special in a moor, there are tufts of spaghnum moss, cranberry, rosemary heather, bell heather, cloudberry, sundew, cotton grass, white-beak-sedge etc.

bell heather
cotton grass

Kærguldsmed / Leucorrhinia pectoralis

A Dragonfly...........

In Europe, dragonflies have often been seen as sinister. Some English names, such as "devil's darning needle"  and "ear cutter", link them with evil or  injury.  A Romanian folk tale says that the dragonfly was once a horse possessed by the devil. Swedish  folklore holds that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh people's souls. The Norwegian name for dragonflies is Øyenstikker ("eye-poker"), and in Portugal they are sometimes called tira-olhos ("eye-snatcher"). They are often associated with snakes, as in the Welsh name gwas-y-neidr, "adder's servant". The Southern United States term "snake doctor" refers to a folk belief that dragonflies follow snakes around and stitch them back together if they are injured.
For some Native American tribes they represent swiftness and activity, and for the Navajo they symbolize pure water. Dragonflies are a common motif in  Zuni pottery; stylized as a double-barred cross, they appear in Hopi rock art and on Pueblo necklaces. They have also been used in traditional medicine in Japan and China. In some parts of the world they are a food source, eaten either as adults or larvae; in Indonesia, for example, they are caught on poles made sticky with birdlime, then fried in oil as a delicacy.

And two Butterflies

Moserandøje /Large heath.
Bølleblåfugl / Cranberry Blue

in Portland Mose

some restoration work in the moor.

a view from Portland Mose out to the coast (to Mulbjerge)
A poppy field near the Vildmose.

the limestone quarry near Lille Vildmose.

It was a lovely summer's day in Lille Vildmose.

photo: grethe bachmann, June 2014.