Sunday, October 11, 2015

Salten Langsø - undisturbed landscape

Salten Langsø holds a safe distance to disturbers.

Salten Langsø is a lake in Mid Jutland, about 12 m deep and 6 km long and very narrow, it lies in a tunnel valley in the lake district of Mid Jutland west of the lake Mossø. Salten Langsø has winding shores, and it mirrors the shape of the melted deadice-lump from Ice Age, which created the lake. The lake bassin has steep sides and is divided into four parts. In the western part is an island and the lake is here divided into two inlets.


the map is too dark, but you can of course see it better on Google Earth.

Salten Langsø with the valleys, the Salten river valley and the lake itself, is a side branch of the Gudenå river, and it is among the most undisturbed nature areas in Denmark.

Salten Langsø is like Mossø a part of Natura 2000-area in the Mid Jutland lake district , and it has some of Denmark's most beautiful and varied nature. The lakes and the valleys  are some of the most imprssive and illustrative Ice Age landscapes. ( the Gudenå river crosses north- south )

Salten Langsø is in several places only a few hundred meter broad. On the northside of the lake are high, forested hillsides (Høvil and Højkol skov) and Ildal skov. The southside, Addit Næs and Salten Næs in a relative flat area with forest, heath, farmland and several small lakes. The terrain rises again to the southwest , Addit skov, which is difficult to access. The highest point is Møgelbjerg (137 m).

Blueberry bushes

The forests are privately owned, but driven with great emphasis on nature - and therefore the planting is very varied, and several areas have the characteristics of a natural forest. 


Along the path were hundreds and hundreds of digger wasps nest in the earth. I saw no wasps

, but it was interesting to see those little nests, looking like little volcanos ! I 'll recommend you to search for the digger wasps on the net for there are so many species!

The area around the lake is ,considering Danish conditions, sparsely populated. The lake is a part of Salten Å-river's water system, which is a side branch of the Gudenå- river. The lake is a natural eutrof lake with an average depth of 4,5 m, and a max depth of 12 m. Half of the lake area is under 4 m deep. The shore vegetation is mainly a narrow fringe of alder (Aldus glutinosa) (Danish: rød-el.) In a few places grow reed. 

In the DOF-list were in january 2012 registered well 17500 observations of 188 bird species, only few waders, but all other possible forest birds.
The area north and south of Salten Langsø is mostly covered in forest, but it contains also a combination of lakes and forests which makes it one of Denmark's best terrains for birds of prey. Both the whitetailed eagle and the osprey are often seen. The white-tailed eagle has been breeding since 2008.

It is not a great fungus year this year, but at least there was one Karl Johan and a one of the little pretty red ones.


photo Salten Langsø September 2015: grethe bachmann

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Skarrildhus 2015 - the Stone Salmon, the Church Yard, the Raven, the Hawker and the Tar Ovens

The Salmon

The stone salmon at Karstoft Å (near Skjern Å river.

The Salmon, head

A huge stone sculpture of  the Skjern Å-salmon was created  at the spot close to Karstoft Å, Skarrildhus in West Jutland  by the Aarhus-sculptor Jørn Rønnau.

Seven Danish artists will use nature in the future National Park Skjern Å as a gallery for six Land-Art Works.

Karstoft Å, Skarrildhus

Land Art is the description of a direction of visual art  which emerged in USA in the late 1960s based between sculpture and landscape architecture

 Jørn Rønnau's giant 45 meter long stone salmon at Skarrildhus is not the only Land Art work in this neighbourhood, fx an area will be decorated with winding paths with small heart figures made of chausse stones and grass; a poem will be created about light and words; a poetic landscape with four small islands in a forgotten wetland -  and much more.

fish bench, Skarrildhus

The coming National Park Skjern Å has already manyfold initiatives created by local citizens, unions and traders, and there will be a cooperation between them and the Land Art artists.

information about the Skarrildhus-area,

Skarrild church yard.

The Church Yard

Information from link:
"In connection with the RAF´s first bombing raid to Königsberg (here, now Kaliningrad) in East Prussia Lancaster ME650 crashed on 27 August 1944 at
Clasonsborg in the parish of Skarrild. All of the crew perished. The German Wehrmacht wanted to bury the deceased "on the spot", but local Danish citizens obtained
that they were interred on the churchyard. This was quite an achievement from the Danish side, as the Germans just from 27 August 1944 started obeying an order to
dig down allied airmen "on the spot". Residents of the parish were accused by the Germans of being pro-English, as they showed up to accompany the airmen to
their graves."

the Raven, Skarrildhus

I always like to see the raven in the air and listen to its rough voice. A very clever bird. 

Info from wikipedia: 

The Raven
Some notable feats of evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent.  Over the centuries
it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature.  In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of  North America and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or  god.

Southern Hawker, Skarrildhus 

Southern Hawker /Aeschna cyanea. 
It is one of the largest dragonflies in Denmark. 67-74 mm. Southern hawker is a great flier, it flies with a speed of 25-30 km hour, while it is catching insects in a fangkurv (trap) which it shapes with its legs. The prey is eaten in the air -  you can hear the crunch! 

Tar Oven,  foto stig bachmann nielsen,

Tjæreovnene/ Tar Ovens
Near Skarrildhus are some interesting industrial buildings where two old tar ovens have been repaired and restored to remind about a trade which has died out long ago. The rebuild of the small industry was established in order to show the production of charcoal and wood tar and to communicate a piece of cultural history from the first half of the 1900s. The production functioned from 1910 until right after WWII.


photo Skarrildhus/Skarrild kirke:  2003/2015: grethe bachmann
photo: tar oven, stig bachmann nielsen, 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Devil's Bit Scabious / Djævelsbid

Succisa pratensis

Devil's bit is common in Denmark, it grows especially in poor and sandy acidophilus with low pH, where it does well among grasses and other perennials and bushes. It is also found in bog-meadows and pastures, in moist heaths and calcareous fens. It is well suited  as a garden perennial for a "wild garden look"  - and is a valuable bee-plant since it is blooming from June into October. . 
It is the main foodplant of the Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia), a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP). The butterfly lays its eggs in large batches and the caterpillars live as a group inside a conspicuous silken web. As both plant and invertebrates are rare, their survival relies on careful management of sites containing these species.

It is distributed throughout the British Isles, western and central Europe, extending eastwards into central Asia. It is absent from eastern Asia and North America.

The bluish or purple flowers are gathered in semicircular heads. The fruits are winged nuts which are spread by the wind. The root of the plant is a short, vertical or a little angled rootstock. Its unlobed leaves distinguish it from  Field Scabious  - and it is distinguished from Greater Knapweed by opposite pairs of leaves contrary to Geater Knapweed's alternate pairs.

The legend about its name is told in various tales. The short black root was in folk tales bitten off by the devil, angry at the plant's ability to cure these ailments, in anger against the Virgin Mary, or as part of some 'devilish plot'. The plant is easy to pull up, if you want to see the off-bitten root.Gerard tells us: "'The greater part of the root seemeth to be bitten away; old fantastick charmers report that the divel did bite it for envie, because it is an herbe that hath so many good vertues and it is so beneficial to mankinde". The legend referred to by Gerard tells how the devil found it in Paradise, but envying the good it might do to the human race, bit away a part of the root to destroy the plant, in spite of which it still flourishes, but with a stumped root. The legend seems to have been very widely spread, for the plant bears this name, not only in England but also on the Continent.

Folk Medicine

Devil's bit Scabious is an old medicinal herb, known since the 4th century. The plant is still used for its diaphoretic, demulcent and febrifuge properties, the whole herb being collected in September and dried. It makes a useful tea for coughs, fevers and internal inflammation. The remedy is generally given in combination with others, the infusion being given in wineglassful doses at frequent intervals.
Species of scabious were used to treat Scabies, and other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the Bubonic plague.The word scabies comes from the Latin word for "scratch" (scabere).
The root was used against boils, coughs and eye-inflammations The crushed root was used as a cover on shingles. A wine decoction from root and flowers and destilled water was used against breast abscesses, cough, and inward diseases. A decoction from the plant against clotted blood and plague.

Culpepper assigned it many uses, saying that the root boiled in wine and drunk was very powerful against the plague and all pestilential diseases, and fevers and poison and bites of venomous creatures, and that "it helpeth also all that are inwardly bruised or outwardly by falls or blows, dissolving the clotted blood,"' the herb or root bruised and outwardly applied, taking away black and blue marks on the skin. He considered "'the decoction of the herb very effectual as a gargle for swollen throat and tonsils, and that the root powdered and taken in drink expels worms."

The root was written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772.

A horse with worm was given decoction from the root. The plant is astringent and the vet used it for cleansing and healing wounds in the horse's hoof. A special cure was to hang the root around the horse's neck in order to heal keratitis = eye infection

The root was part of a brandy-extraction for humans and livestock, who were being depraved by witchcraft. It was also used in other magic means against witchcraft in cattle, accidents during butter churning, for sick pigs etc. The root was given to horses if there was witchcraft in the stable.

Together with other roots like asafoetida, coral stone and a magic formula it was put under the bed sheets against a broken marriage promise, caused by evil people.

Decoction of the fresh herb dyes wool and yarn green, from the dried herb yellow. The root gives a yellow dye;  the leaves dye green, and they dye black with ferrous sulphate.

At the Faroe islands Devil's bit is used for dyeing green.

photo Tustrup, Djursland, August 2015: grethe bachmann
 Source: Brøndegaard, folk og flora, bd. 4 and Djævelsbid,wikipedia.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Vikings - Odin,Thor, Tyr.....

                            Three Nordic Gods 

Uppsala temple, Carl Larsson, wiki
 The religion of the Nordic Vikings was like the religion of the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans -  polyteistic. They believed in many gods, and there were many gods at hand -  a god for everything a human might need.

Odin, Icelandic, wiki

Odin is the main god, a magnificent demonic and  terrifying, sadistic figure. He was obsessed of a quest for wisdom, and he sacrificed one eye for this knowledge. He is merciless, capricious, heartless, he is the god of war and warriors, he owns the spear Gungner, the selfrenewing goldring Drøpner, the eight-legged fast horse Sleipner, and he is guarded by his two wolves and achieves news from everywhere by his two ravens Hugin and Munin -  he consults with Mimer's severed head,  he finds the runes and knows their power, he hunts by night with his escorte over mountain, forest and field, he reveals himself on the battlefield and for the men dedicated to death as a one-eyed gestalt, swept in his cloak and witha wide-brimmed hat.


Odin and Sleipner wiki
Odin is also the god of the bards, he is the leader of the mysterious assignation, the rage of the soul. He knows about witchcraft and seid, nothing is alien to him, he is the god of magnates, aristocrats, and a dangerous god. Sometimes he is called Alfader, which is true, since he is in the lead of the Asa-gods, but he is  not a kind old man like an Alfader should be, he is not loving and protective, mild or understanding, he is not a typical Alfader-figure. His clients among humans are kings, earls, chiefs, magicians, poets and those who are killed in the battlefield. They are led by the valkyries to Valhalla and end up like a part of the incalculable warrior troop, the Einheries, the forever fighting and resurgent warriors, who'll have to assist Odin when Ragnarok arrives. 

In order to reach all his goals, all his purpose, all his collecting knowledge and wisdom, Odin does not hesitate, he avoids no fraud, cunning or broken promises, he is tough on everyone and not less tough on himself, he is both chynical and cold, he is wild and ecstatic. He is the deepest and most grandios god among all gods, and there is a long distance from him to Thor, the next Asagod.

Thor and chariot, drawing 1895 wiki
Thor is mostly depicted as a red-bearded, powerful fellow with his hammer Mjølner - he is associated with thunder, lightning, storms and strenght and with his chariot pulled by two goats.Thor is a democrat, Odin an aristocrat,  Odin takes care of the upper class, while Thor is a popular guy. A thing is missing around Odin by those who describe him, namely the humour, of which Thor has got enough. There are lots of myths and anecdotes about Thor. He was the strong and faithfull protector of the Viking-farmer, and  he is the brawler among the giants, who are always goals of his  wielding hammer.

Thors Hammer, wiki
Thor fishing, runestone, Hørdum kirke, Jutland.GB
The thunder was rolling when Thor swept above the clouds with his goat chariot. He was humorous and ready for fight when he stepped forward with his hammer in his hand, but there was one thing he missed. He was neither cunning or sly. The giants, who knew about witchcraft, often brought him into trouble. The Nordic Vikings composed many colourful and entertaining adventures about the deeds of this favorite god: He fetches the mighty beer kettle by the giants, he fetches his stolen hammer, he goes fishing for the Midgard serpent by himself,  he experiences the strangest events when visiting the king of the giants, Udgardsloke, where he is escorted by the sly Loke.

runes on a lanse, wiki
Viking farmers Faroe islands , wiki
Thor could be extremely tempered but he soon was reconciled. The Viking-farmer understood him and liked him. Thor brought entertainment into the evenings by the fireplace, but he was more than that, he was  also very important to the farmer, except for Norway, since he was the protector of the harvest and the wellfare of the farming. He was an agricultural god and played a central role in daily life and was often considered to be more necessary than Odin himself, this seemed to appear in a report from Adam of Bremen, who told that Thor's figure, and  not Odin's, took the middle place in Uppsala Temple, where three main gods were placed for worship, Odin, Thor and Frej  Thor could also be summoned at the weddings to give the bride fertility, and when the runestones had to get protection from a god, it was Thor and not Odin who had to "vi the runes" (to inaugurate). It is also characteristic that when the heathen Nordic people found a sign to put up against the Christian cross  they chose Thor's hammer, not Odin's spear. Thor was a more common god than Odin, he was summoned by all kinds of people besides the farmer, by smith, fisher, captain of the sea. He was much more close to life and confidential to Everyman than the incomprehensible and distant and dangerous Odin.

Tyr as Asagod is a  much more pale character than Odin and Thor, he is brave and frank, he loses one hand when the the Fenris wolf has to be tied, and he fights during Ragnarok
Tyr and the Fenris wolf. wiki
with the Hellhound Garm itself. The Nordic people tells not much more about him.

work of Tacitus, wiki

Those three Asagods are not new in the religious belief of the Germanic people,  they are all mentioned with Roman names in the famous book about the Germans by Tacitus, written about year 100 A.C.. Odin is Mercury, Thor is Hercules, Tyr is Mars. It is said about Mercury that he is the supreme Germanic god, and humans are sacrificed only to him. Odin has in common with the Roman Mercury and the Greek Hermes that he is the leader of the dead and appears with a cloak, a broadrimmed hat and a spear (staff) - or else there is not much alike between the two gods, and it is probable that the capacity of savagery and demonic capriciosity, which characterizes Odin - but is missing in Mercury -  is due to the East Germans neighbouring to the wild Asian nomads, who overturned Europe in the Migration period. Together with the Gothic culture stream from the areas of the Black Sea towards the North.this Mongol-like Odin-figure might have reached Sweden and from here the rest of Scandinavia.

Baby Hercules, strangling a snake, wiki
To translate Thor into Hercules suits well, but it does not explain the thunder and the lightning hammer. Thor must be an ancient acgriculture god and thunder god. Also Tyr is only partly covered by his Roman partner Mars, whose Nordic name Tyr, Tir, Ti is related to the Roman Jupiter,  the Greek Zeus, the Indian Dyaus. It is not known how old these threesome gods of the Germans are. Maybe not that very old. Cæsar says that the Germanic people worshipped the powers of nature: fire, sun, moon. The Germanic people named three weekdays after three gods:  tirsdag: Tyr, onsdag: Odin, torsdag, Thor. 

photo wikipedia
photo: Hørdum kirke, runestone; GB

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Blackthorn / Slåen

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn grows at cliffs, embankments along the beach, cleanings on edges of woodland, thicket and fences. It is extensively planted for hedging and a cover for game birds. Some forms are grown for ornament and flowers. The fruit is called sloe, which is similar to a small damson as plum suitable for preserves, but too tart to eat. The berries are best after the first night's frost, but if they are plucked before that period, they can either be pricked by a fork or put in the freezer for a few days. Sloe is used for juice, syrups, jams, jellies, liqueur, wine and snaps.

The foliage is sometimes eaten by larvaes of  Lepidoptera (like the Brown and the Black Hairstreak butterfly). The pocket plum gall is found on the fruit, where it results in an elongated and flattened gall, devoid of a stone.

In the 1700s and 1800s:
It was a common thing in the time after harvest and after the first nigh frost to gather sloe, scold them and eat them. Infusion gave a well-tasting and healthy juice, which people drunk together with porridge instead of milk. The berries cooked with syrup or sugar and fermented on a wooden barrel was popular as a porridge. Sloe-must was made by just pouring cooked water over the berries and let the infusion ferment for 3-4 weeks. Berries crushed with the kernels gave a juice with a spicy taste. After the first night of frost the farmers' wives plucked the sloe-berries in large baskets and made a fine red juice, which was hidden in a barrel until Christmas Evening. The clear light red juice drunk in wine glass and sweetened with sugar was a popular refreshing drink during summer. It tastes a little like red wine, bad red wine was despisingly called "sloe-juice". Beer cooked with the berries makes such a good taste that it is like old red wine. From the flowers were made aqvavit, and the berries were used to clear must. They bring a pleasant taste to beer and a pretty colour, but they can also improve apple-must during the fermentation.

Jam, Cheese and Tea.
The berries preserved with sugar and cinnamon gave jam for a winter salad or a steak sauce, after they had got frost they were put with honey in jars as a jam. In Vendsyssel (North Jutland) were sloe-berries used when preserving pumpkins. If the barch was used when making cheese the cheese wouldn't rotten. The new dried leaves were a good tea, also the dried flowers mixed with strawberry-leaves.

Sloe-Wine and Liqueur

In 1580 the vasal at Kronborg let gather 2-3 barrels of sloe, from which the king's cupbearer made sloe-wine for Frederik II. The wine made by chrushed berries and kernels was very intoxicating and was only served on special occassions. During WWII a wine firm in Odense (at Funen) advertised for sloe-berries. From the fruits are also made a liqueur.
In rural Britain a so-called sloe-gin is made from the sloe. It is not a true gin but an infusion of vodka, gin, or neutral spirits with the fruit to produce a liqueur. In Navarre, Spain is a popular liqueur Patxacan made with sloe. Sloe is also excellent for a herbal snaps. From fermented sloes are made wine in Germany and other central European countries. Sloe is also good as jam and if preserved with vinegar, have a similar taste to the Japanese umeboshi.

Folk Medicine:
The juice of sloe was used for stomach pain - and the flowers drawn in warm beer was used for childrens' motions. It was also used to cure tooth-ache, pain in the eyes , blood poisoning, shingles and much more. Physician Christiern Pedersen 1533: crushed leaves and barch used on on shingles. Eyedrops from the pulverized barch in wine. Physician Simon Paulli 1648: berry-juice with beer for stomach problems. Children with constipation had the flowers in warm beer. Vinegar-decoct from the green medium barch was effective against toothache. The flowers in a healing morning drink , destilled water from the flowers for bronchitis, cleaning the body etc. A tea cleansed the blood and was laxative. The barch was used against malaria, the berries gave a healing drink against fevers, and mixed with cherries against diarrhoea. A milk decoct from flowers for a drink or a bath to remove freckles. The fruit juice for sores in the mouth or to rub upon swellings and against nosebleed. In 1772 flowers and fruit were entered into the pharmacopoeia.

Unripe berries dye black, the juice of the ripe berries dye pale brown, while the dried berries make wool red. The barch gives with alun a red dye, unripe berries with iron vitriol give a dye like black ink. The unripe berries and the barch were used in tanning.

Other Use:
Blackthorn was recommended for hedges around gardens and fields, in Denmark this is much used especially at Funen. Many loads of cut blackthorn from the hedges were brought home as a fuel for the baking ovens. Before or in the killing season at the farms when sausages were made, the children gathered thorns from sloe, which in the evening were scraped clean , dried upon the oven and eventually burnt in the tips and then used as sausage-sticks; this was a tradition in most parts of the country  (DK) - and the sausage sticks were sold at the market. Boys also used the thorns as arrow-heads. From the wood were made music instruments, it was commonly used in turner-works and for mathematical instruments. From the tough wood were made walking sticks, hammer - and axen handles. During WWII gramophone needles were made from sloe thorns, they gave lesser needle-noise and lesser wear on the records than metal needles.

Blackthorn makes and excellent fire wood that burns slowly with a good heat and little smoke.

Straight blackthorn stems have traditionally been made into walking sticks or clubs (known in Ireland as a shillelagh). In the British Army, blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment; the tradition also occurs in Irish regiments in some Commonwealth countries.

Shlomo yitzhaki, a Talmudist commentator of the High Middle Ages,  writes that the sap (or gum) of P. spinosa (or what he refers to as the prunellier) was used as an ingredient in the making of some inks used for manuscripts.

A "sloe-thorn worm" used as fishing bait is mentioned in the 15th century work, The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle, by Juliana Berners.The expression "sloe-eyed" for a person with dark eyes comes from the fruit, and is first attested in A.J.Wilson's novel Vashti.

Making snaps:
Put sloe berries in a glass or bottle with double amount alcohol. Filtration after 2-3 months. There is now a pretty dark red to violet essence, which can be thinned as you like. The berries can be used again together with the crushed stones in a new amount of alcohol to draw for a month or two, which gives a drink with a taste of almond. A sloe snaps gets better and better when stored. It is excellent for herring and cheese. Added honey makes it a snaps for desserts.

text and photo: grethe bachmann

Brown Hairstreak / Guldhale

Thecla betulae

The Brown Hairstreak has a wing span of 33-41 mm. It is easy to recognize by the golden colours of the underside and the marked black/white lines. From the upperside the female is recognizable by the large, orange spot on the front wing. The male can - seen from the upperside - look like the Satyrum-species, but these always keep their wings folded during rest.

The flying period is from first August til mid September and sometimes even later. The flying period starts later than any other Danish butterfly. Brown Hairstreak lives in pastures and light-open thickets and glades with a large growth of blackthorn or cherry plum. It overwinters as egg upon the branches of the fodderplant, and the caterpillar first develops inside the egg in spring. The caterpillar's fodderplant are blackthorn (Prunus spinosus), cherry plum (P. ceracifera) and sometimes plum (P. domestica), wild cherry (P. avium) or other Prunus-species.

The flight of this butterfly is fast and restless, but the species spend much time in the treetops, where they sit in the sun with half spread wings or seek food like honey dew. They also seek to thistle, yarrow, goldenrod, hemp-agrimony, heather or other flowers or to overripe fruit (i.e. fermenting blackberry still on the vines). Females, who need much energy by the oviposition, are seen more often on flowers and fruit than males.

Brown Hairstreak is in some years seen in large numbers, but as a rule it is few in number and difficult to find. It is in decline in the agricultural areas. It is very susceptible to pesticides and is never seen in sprayed areas. It has disappeared from some places on the Danish islands during the 1950s.

Source: Michael Stoltze, Dagsommerfugle i Danmark, 1997.

Black Hairstreak/Slåensommerfugl , Satyrum pruni,  - is a very rare butterfly, today seen in Midwest- England. It might be extinct in Denmark. Not seen since 1987.

White-letter Hairstreak/ Det hvide W/ Satyrum w-album, ccommon in most of Denmark but might be diminish because of the sick elm-trees.  

The Ilex Hairstreak /  Egesommerfugl / Satyrum ilicis, is  close to extinction  in Denmark, only known from one place.

The Purple Hairstreak/ Blåhale  (Neozephyrus quercus) common in Denmark

text and photo: grethe bachmann
photo of Brown Hairstreak, Sletterhage, Helgenæs August 2007: grethe bachmann

Alder Buckthorn / Almindelig Tørst

  Rhamnus frangula


Rhamnus frangula is a bush, rarely a small tree, with a grey brown barch, oval leaves often pretty red in autumn, small whitish flowers which are hard to see, and small stone fruits, which change colour from green to red and black. It is common in light forests, mostly among oak and alder. The whole plant is poisonous. The bush can transfer kronrust, i.e. plant rust to oats. It has often been confused with bird cherry and alder.

Alder Buckthorn is also known as Arrowwood , Berry-bearing Alder, Black Alder, Black Aldertree, Black dogwood, Buckthorn , Glossy buckthorn. In spite of its name it has no thorns. It grows mostly on damp and peaty soil, near bogs, in marshes, damp moorland and open woodland. It may form part of the shrub layer in the Alderwoods of the fens and in open woodland. It is native of Europe, Central West Asia and North Africa.

NB: Barch and berries are poisonous to humans

The buckthorn was of major military importance in the 15th-19th century as its wood provided the best quality charcoal for gunpowder manufacture. Both alder buckthorn and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) were used in fabrication of gunpowder, especially powder for hunting.

The long twigs were traditionally used to make arrows as well as butchers spikes and skewers. The coppiced branches have also been used for walking sticks as well as pea and bean sticks. Along with willow and split alder they have also found use for cane seating and basket work.



The inner barch dye yellow like saffron, the berries are used for dyeing green in 1686, the barch dyes the wool yellow, the berries dye green, dried barch softened in beech ash lye gives the wool a madder-red colour, green berries make the wool yellow, ripe berries dye greyish, with salpeter blue, with vinegar violet and with bismuth green; if bricks were burnt together with the wood they grow bluish. The barch gives a bronze yellow dye, which after a handling with potash turns into a brick red.

Folk Medicine:
In the Middle Ages a juice was made which could drive out all kinds of bad fluids as well as all other filthiness from the bowels, but since the barch has a very drastic effect (  poisonous) the juice had to be added caraway, anise, cardamom or cinnamon. Juice from the inner yellow barch had a strong laxative effect; the barch cooked with butter or crushed with apples was put on scabies; tea from the innerbarch was used against rash, jaundice and ague(malaria).

The barch was stated in Dansk Farmakopé in 1772, the fresh barch and the fruits were used as an emetic, the dried 'frangulabark' was matured at least one year and was a part of mildly laxative medicines, added malt beer, liqueurs and other dietic drinks.

 NB: The barch and fruit were used as a purgative in the past, though their potentially dangerous violent action and side effects means they are now rarely used.


Bees and butterflies
The flowers are popular with bees and the plant is food plant for the brimstone butterfly.

Other Use: 
The berries were in 1775 mentioned as a means against some horse diseases. The leaves were said to be a good fodder for goats, and if the cows did eat them they gave much milk.(although it is also said that the cattle do not like to eat them because of the thorns). The smell of branches stuck into mole-passages drove away the vermins. The wood was used for inlaid works and shoemaker-pegs, the branches gave a good grip around beer jugs etc. In Vendsyssel (North Jutland) the branches were bound around vessels, and baskets were plaited from the split branches etc. The branches were baked in front of the oven to soften them and then straighten them out into walking sticks. Charcoal from this wood was the best for hunting powder, in 1895 a forest cultivation was recommended for this - from Mårum Skovdistrikt were sold logs and branches for the army's powder work in Frederiksværk.

Text and photo: grethe bachmann
Source: Folk og flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 3, V.J. Brøndegaard 1979.

Common Brimstone / Citronsommerfugl

Gonepteryx rhamni

The Common Brimstone has a wing span of 54-64 cm. When it is resting both sexes are easily recognizable because of the wing shape. During flight the male is easy to know because of the lemon yellow colour, while the female reminds about a Large White butterfly.

The middle spots varie a little in size and colour, but else are almost no variations. Flying time is July-October and again after overwintering in March-June. It is one of the earliest butterflies of the year. Usually it shows in the first sunny days, when the temperature is above 10 degrees (Celsius). It can live almost one year as an adult butterfly.


The brimstone overwinters as adult butterfly among branches and leaves. The fodderplants are alder buckthorn and common buckthorn. Its habitat is forest and thicket with alder buckthorn and common buckthorn  The brimstone is roaming and is often seen in open flowerrich terrain, like in lucerne fields, where the species seek nectare before overwintering.

The brimstone is very "seeking" to flowers, both spring and autumn. In late summer it seeks especially the Asteraceae-family,  like cabbage-thistle and other thistles -  and to red clover and lucerne, or to the buddleias in the gardens.The species is seen on the first sunny days of the year where the temperature reaches 8-10 degrees Celsius. It flies unsteady and low, and in early spring it is often sitting upon sunny spots in the forest floor to get some warmth.

Frequency and spread:
Common Brimstone lives in Europe, North Africa and Asia; across much of its range it is the only species of its genus and is therefore simply known ad "The Brimstone"

The brimstone is very common in Denmark, especially in and around moist thicket-woods. It is rather scarce in West Jutland. The frequency varies from year to year, and the species might roam far and wide and reach even small islands with no permanent living conditions.

Source: Michael Stoltze. Dagsommerfugle i Danmark, 1998.
text and photo: grethe bachmann