Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Come on Son, we're going Fishing.....

It was at Kalø Beach on a lovely summer's day in July. Father and son were out for the son's first little fishing. The boy was hesitating. There was something else down in the water. He had this catching net..........

Something was tickling his feet and he laughed ..... (and almost cried)

He went to put his mysterious catch into the bucket. Was it a crab?

- but then he threw it up into the air. Not worth saving! It was not a fish. Better luck next time little fisherman!

(click to enlarge)

photo Kalø Beach July: grethe bachmann


Achillea ptarmica

Sneezewort is a relative of the much commoner Yarrow. It grows in most of northern Europe and in the mountain areas in southern Europe, everywhere connected to light-open habitats in well-drained , but moist soil. It is popular as a herbaceous perrennial in the garden with white flowers in July -September. The plant is poisonous to cattle, sheep, and horses.

The Latin word ptarmi is from Greek ptario (sneeze) meaning that it causes sneezing. Leaves were used as a form of snuff and to cure headaches. Other names for Sneezewort are Sneezeweed, Fair-maid-of-France, Goose Tongue, Wild Tansy etc. In folklore is said that Sneezewort can be used to start a nosebleed and was once used to relieve migraine and stuffy heads, another reason for adding it to the old snuff recipes.

In Harry Potter Sneezewort is used together with Scurvy Grass and Lovage in a drink called Confusion Concoction which causes confusion in the drinker - and the plants are described as very effective when it's about infecting the brain and are often used in confusion- and intoxication drinks, where the sourcerer wishes to cause hot temper and recklessness.

photo september 2007: grethe bachmann, Høstemark Skov, Lille Vildmose, North Jutland

Monday, July 26, 2010


Achillea millefolium

Achillea millefolium or yarrow is a flowering plant native to the Northern Hemisphere. In antiquity, yarrow was known as "herbal militaris", for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds. Other common names for this species include common yarrow, nosebleed plant, old man's pepper, devil's nettle, milfoil, soldier's woundwort, thousand-leaf and thousand-seal.

Yarrow has achieved its Latin name Achillea from the Greek legendary hero Achilleus, who was invulnerable except in one spot, namely his Achilles' tendon. It was said that he used the plant to heal his soldiers' wounds. Millefolium means 'a thousand leaves' and refers to the featherlike, fringed leaves.The English name yarrow comes from the Saxon (Old English) word gearwe, which is related to both the Dutch word gerw and the Old High German word garawa.

Yarrow grows up to 3500m above sea level. The plant commonly flowers from May through June, and is a frequent component in butterfly gardens. Common yarrow is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests. Active growth occurs in the spring. It is considered directly beneficial to other plants, improving the health of sick plants when grown near them. Several cavity-nesting birds, including the common starling, use yarrow to line their nests. Experiments conducted on the tree swallow, which does not use yarrow, suggest that adding yarrow to nests inhibits the growth of parasites.

Medicine and Food.
A garden-yarrow is used as a decorative plant , but it is the wild yarrow which was used against fever , ulcer and other inflammation-diseases. It was also used as a means against loss of hair.
In the 1700s the herb was popular in the kitchen, either raw or boiled, and the white flowers were used for relaxing baths. A balm was made from lard and crushed leaves and smeared upon rash and wounds. Henrik Smid recommended it against roundworms and stomach cramps, and Simon Paulli told about a man whose nose was cut off, but was put back with a mix of yarrow and red wine!

Yarrow was also used in traditional Native American herbal medicine. Navajo Indians considered it to be a "life medicine", chewed it for toothaches, and poured an infusion into ears for earaches. The Pawnee used the stalk for pain relief. The Chippewa used the leaves for headaches by inhaling it in a steam. They also chewed the roots and applied the saliva to their appendages as a stimulant. The Cherokee drank a tea of common yarrow to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.

Dried yarrow is an ingrediense in teas against indigestion, and furthermore it is an excellent herb for spicing snaps, it has to draw for 2-3 days and gives a fine light green extract.In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavouring of beer prior to the use of hops. Fresh leaves can be chopped in butter and used in baked potatos, boiled leaves give taste to potato purees.

It has now been documented that yarrow is styptic, and this effect was used in folk medicine, where the plant was recommended for stopping inside haemorrhages in stomach, gut, uterus and more, and the contracting effect of the plant was useful against haemorrhoids and varicose veins.

The plant is now used in cleaning lotions for greasy skin and in shampoos against dandruffs. The juice can soothen chapped skin and is used in face masks.

The plant was used in child birth to prevent the woman from giving birth to a monster. According to legend the plant grew out from the chips of Achilleus' spear, and he used the plant to stop bleedings. The dried stalks were used for prophecy by the druids.

Wild yarrow in a light pink shade

In rare cases, yarrow can cause severe allergic skin rashes; prolonged use can increase the skin's photosensitivity. This can be triggered initially when wet skin comes into contact with cut grass and yarrow together.

Source: Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, 2001; Inge Lindt, Lægeplanter i folkemedicinen.

photo 2006/2007/2010: grethe bachmann

Friday, July 23, 2010


Of interest to Flora and Fauna-visitors:

Nature change and protection: Lille Vildmose in blog "A Taste of Denmark"

The Elf People /Elverfolket

Elverdammen/ The Elf Pond in Bjerre skov, Vejle

Last Saturday I was in Bjerre skov near Vejle fjord, and once again I went down to the dark pond with the lotus flowers, which lies deep down in the terrain. I have been here several times, and this place always seems a little sinister to me. Maybe the name Elverdam has got a magic influence. In the old days, before Christianity arrived, people probably considered this pond a sacred place, where they sacrificed to the gods, the elfs, the water nymphs and the nix, who played his violin below water, trying to lure young girls down to him. The Danish name of the nix is nøkken and the Lotus-flower's Danish name is Nøkkerose, an obvious and ancient connection to the elf people.

Northern Europe
/Elf-people is a group of supernatural beings from the North European folklore. From the Danish and Swedish folklore they are i.e. fairies, elf girls, elf boys and nixes. In Germany the term is elfen, in England elf, in Sweden älv, in Norway the word alv is rarely used, it is synonym to vætter. In tales about the elf people are similarities to other mythological beings from folklore like pixies, the underground people and huldrer (wood/water nymphs). They were once local gods, but changed with the coming of Christianity into nature spirits, driving out the ancient Nordic mythology. In the 16th century they were considered to be damaging little creatures, while they earlier were seen as creatures of normal human size. Their homes were underground in hills, mountains, springs and water streams.

Lotus (Nøkkerose) in the Elf Pond
In early modern time and at present the elfs were in British and Nordic folklore associated to the South European fairies , beautiful little winged creatures. In the Romantic literature of the 19th century the elfs were re-created into their original form, often pictured as young men and women of great beauty, which was the base of the elfs in the 20th century's fantasy literature, especially with R.R.Tolkien. His elfs built highly on the Nordic mythology. In Nordic folklore, which is a mix of Nordic mythology and elements from Christian mythology, are several types of beings, mostly females, who are described as elf people. In Denmark they are named elver or ellefolk, Swedish alv or älva and Norwegian alv. Some underground people er more related to the dwarfs than the elfs. In Denmark and Sweden the nisse and the tomte (both pixies)have many similarities to the underground people, they are primarily connected to the farm and the home.
I Denmark and Sweden the elfs are often described as very beautiful girls with a hole in their back, they lived in the wood, in thicket, in the hills or in the moors together with the elf king - and they are pictured as blonde and dressed in white. they turn into a rage and get evil when insulted - sometimes they try to lure people into death, like lygtemænd. (will-o'-the-wisp). But the elsf were not just young and beautiful. A Swedish fairy tale tells about an elf woman, who in the end saves the heroin on the condition that the king's cattle never graze on her hill again. This elf woman is described as a beautiful elderly woman.

The Elf Pond

The Elvere (Elf people) danced at gravehills at night and in the fog in the morning. They left a shape of rings where they had danced, the so-called elf ring or witch ring , in reality a ring of fungus. H.C. Andersen tells in Elverhøj about the elf people's and other nature spirits' feast at Elverhøj on a summer's night. If a human saw the elf dance, he would discover that although it had lasted only a few hours, many years might have passed by in the real world. This is also told by Tolkien in The Lord of the Ring. In some tales the elfs are sickness -spirits, usually in connection to exemia, which in Norway is still named "elveblest". To protect oneself against evil elf people were used elf cross, carved into buildings and other objects, or a pentagram, which was still in use in the 19th century in Sweden: It was carved or painted on doors, walls and tools to protect against the elfs. A cross was put in a necklace or carved in silver wares, in some areas were crosses placed upon the altar on three consecutive Sundays. Skålsten (stones with hollows) is a special form of petroglyphs - such stones were found everywhere in Scandinavia and named elfkvärnar in Sweden, indicating they might have been used in ritual connections where food was sacrificed (like butter) in the hollows to the elfs. It is not cetain how old this custom is and how long it was used. The circular hollows in stones were also interpreted as a female sexual symbol.
Skålsten ( stone with hollows) in church dike,Daugbjerg church, Jutland
In the British folklore the elfs are usually portrayed as little , fickle people, who were often described as invisible, and with an evil personality. They were not exactly evil - they just irritated people. In British tradition the elfs are alike fairies, originating from French and Gaelic folklore. Elfs appear in both English and Scottish ballads and folk tales. These stories often hold a travel to Elphame or Elfland (= Alfheim in Nordic kosmology), a fairy land, which is also a scary and hostile place. The elfs are sometimes described in a positive way, but in other cases they are sinister figures, often murderers or rapists. In most ballads the elf is a male and the queen of Elfland is almost the only mentioned female elf.
In Iceland the belief in huldufolk is still alive, or people will not deny their existence. Maybe this might be a way to promote tourism, but a study from 2007 at Iceland's University showed that more than half of the Icelanders would not reject the existence of elfs or ghosts. A former study from 1974 concluded that the Icelanders are more open to phenomenons like divination, ghosts and elfs than other nations. The Icelandic huldufolk live in mountains and stones.
Huldremose (the moor of the water nymph) East Jutland

Their role as damaging creatures has survived. Elf-shot, elf-bolt or elf-arrow origin from Scotland and the northern part of England. The oldest known is in a manuscript from the 16th century, they have also been used for arrowheads of flint from Stone Age. They were given a ritual and healing importance and were said to be used by witches to harm people and their livestock. An "owl" in the hair was called an elf-lock, and a sudden paralysis was sometimes called an elf-stroke.

The elfs are connected to various literature like the medieval epos Nibelungenlied, in William Shakespeare's "A Midsummernight's Dream", Goethe's Erlkönig, probably originating from Denmark, it was actually a Danish story which was translated into German, Erlkönig was put into music by Franz Schubert; in Irish mythology and the house -elfs in J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter books.

photo Bjerre skov, Vejle , 17. July 2010: grethe bachmann

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lille Vildmose in 2010

It is amazing to see how Mother Nature takes back her old land. The raised bog in Lille Vildemose is developing fast during the last years and will continue doing so - and the recent peat areas are now filled with water. Flora and fauna shows its richness, birds, bees, butterflies, dragonflies - they all come back. Nature is breathing.

Portland Mose in the northern section of Lille Vildmose in 2008, where the wooden pavements are not yet connected.

Portland Mose in 2009 before the water gets higher.

Portland Mose in 2010 with much more water along the pavement.

The sundew is a sign that things are doing well in the moor. It was very hard to find last year but in June 2010, the sundew had become numerous. (click to enlarge)

The sphagnum moss lives and grows from rain water and from the nutrients which follow the rain. The raised bog thus functions as a gigantic fungus, keeping the rain water. The upper ab. 1/2 meter of the raised bog consists of living sphagnum moss growing each year and making the bog a few millimeters thicker. Under the living moss is a peat layer with water, free of oxygen. This peat layer, which bottom is about 1.500 years old, has a thickness of 4-6 meters. How it looks under the upper living layers of sphagnum moss is visible in the brown areas at Grønvej and Møllesøvej, where peat was last digged, but now the production of spaghnum is in its last stage. When this production has stopped the wet raised bog-ntaure will be fully re-created. The raised bog in Lille vildmose is meant to achieve the same extent from times immemorial.

Along Hegnsvej in the northern section of Lille Vildmose has the peat industry been given up, and it is now obvious how nature walks in and changes from month to month. Greylag goose, crane and marsh harrier have began breeding, and the bittern is heard spring and summer. It is the ghost of the reed forest and sounds like a mad bull roaring in the distance. Thousand of dragonflies fly across the former digging areas, which are now water-filled and overgrown after many decades of industrial production. Nature is gaining terrain in Lille Vildmose, which will become wetter and wilder in the years to come.

The lake and the reed forest where the marsh harrier has its nest and where the bittern roars.

A few trees still stick their branches above water.

A solid bridge across the water. Maybe the railing to one side is a little scaring for a family with small children. Actually the moor is not a place for small children. There are lots of vipers along the wooden pavement - and although you do not see them they are everywhere and it is difficult for impulsive and energetic small children not to rush out into the moor.

The pavement is narrow but necessary!

A leece lay in the midst of the thick plant layer upon the lake. It tried to get down under for a long time, but suddenly it found a hole and vips! it disappeared. You can still buy leeches on the pharmacy, but I don't know if they are still used to cleanse the blood like in the old days. To the right a pretty Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus). There were many of those lively Argus Blue that day. (click to enlarge)

Ffine golden-brown colours in the moss. To the right bell heather, which is typical for a place like this, and the butterflies love it. Honey from bell heather is dark and very aromatic. be. (click to enlarge).

Hare's tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum L.) Eriophorum grows wild in the North and is a common plant in the moors. It is very beautiful when it is swaying in the summer wind. The eriphorum reddens in the raised bogs. The reddened leaf-rosettes are being cleansed for peat soil and are now mentioned peat fibers. The fibres are card together with wool and sold as "cardflor" and knitting yarn. (NB: It is not allowed to use the cottongrass in Lille Vildmose).

cottongras like snow flakes and a white birch

Birch thicket, Portland Mose has been overgrown with birch thicket, but most tress and bushes have now been removed and now they are only a resonable and decorative part of the moor.

There are may view points along the pavement road. Portland Mose with its long wooden pavements and bridges across the moor and the lake is a good place for people to come, and many come to see what is happening along the way. This is also a fantastic educational place for school classes.

It is visible here how broad the beams are which hold wooden pavement. In the moist soil between the beams are sundew, cloudberry, bell heather and many other interesting plants. Frogs and lizards, vipers hiding, butterflies fluttering, dragonflies hovering and bumble bees humming. A wonderful summer's day. Maybe I can come back in the autumn.

photo Lille Vildmose 27. June 2010: grethe bachmann


Drosera rotundifolia

Round-leaf sundew/Drosera rotundifolia

Drosera (Soldug), commonly known as the sundews have over 170 species. These members of the family Droseraceae capture and digest insects using stalked mucilaginour glands covering the leaf surface. Various species can be found growing natively on every continent except Antarctica. The name Drosera comes from Greek drosos = dew, dewdrops, but also the English and the Danish common name sundew/soldug refers to the glistening drops at the tip of each tentacle that resemble drops of morning dew.

Sundew/Soldug is protected in Denmark.

Sundews generally grow in moist or more rarely constantly wet habitats with acidic soils and high levels of sunlight. Common habitats include bogs, fens, swamps, marshes etc. Many species grow in association with sphagnum moss, which allows sundews, which don't rely on soil-bound nutrients, to flourish where more dominating vegetation would usually outcompete them.

Sundews were used as medicinal herbs as early as the 12th century, when an Italian doctor Platearius recommended the plant as an herbal remedy for coughs under the name "herba sole". It has been used commonly in cough preparations in Germanyand elsewhere inEurope. Sundew tea was especially recommended by herbalists for dry coughs, asthma and bronchitis. A modern study has shown that Drosera does exhibit antitussive properties.

Culbreth's 1927 Materia Medica listed Drosera rotundifolia, anglica and linearis as being used as stimulants and expectants. Sundews have also been used as an aphrodisiac and to strengthen the heart, as well as to treat sunburn, toothache, and prevent freckles. They are still used today in some registered medications, usually in combination with other active ingredients. Today Drosera is usually used to treat ailments such asasthma, coughs, lung infections, and stomach ulcers. Medicinal preparations are primarily made using the roots, flowers, and fruit-like capsules. Since all native sundews species are protected in many parts of Europe and North America, extracts are usually prepared using cultivated fast-growing sundews.

Observations Denmark Soldug

photo 27. June 2009 Rold Skov & 27 June 2010,Vildmosen, North Jutland: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wild Carrot/ Vild Gulerod

Wild carrot/ Vild gulerod
Daucus carota

Wild carrot grows in open fields and meadows, upon hills and in the edge of roads. The plant was cultivated as a food and cleansing plant back in the ancient Rome. The name carota comes from Greek karota, karoton and was used as a Latin name already in year 240. The Anglo Saxons used wild carrot in a drink, which was said to be able to keep away the Devil, a long time before the cultivated carrot came to England.

The carrot origins from southern Europe and was probably brought to the North by monks and cultivated in Denmark since the introduction of Christianity ab. 1000, it is not certain however if the wild carrot is original or feral in the Danish flora. The first certain information about cultivation of carrot is from the 1500s. People had the opinion that the kitchen herb carrot was brought to Denmark (Amager) with the Dutch whom Christian II fetched to the country in 1516.

In 1554 a load of carrots was sent from Copenhagen to Nyborg.(at Funen) In 1560 a load to Århus, in 1579 is mentioned two loads to Odense. In ab. 1650 it was commonly known that carrots were sown in the gardens and other fenced places. In East Jutland the carrot was used for fattening geese, but else it was not known as a fodder plant in Denmark still in the 1800s; the farmers said that "carrots are only eatable in summer". But later the carrot was recommended as a fodder plant instead of turnips, carrots made the cows fat quickly, their meat more tasty and the milk with no after-taste. In the late 1800s the carrot had about the same importance as turnips in fodder for cows, swine and especially horses, and special carrots were cultivated for fodder only. Wild carrot has sometimes been sown as a spice in grass fields.

The juice of the root was used to dye the light coloured winter butter, cheese was sometimes dyed too. It was als a common thing to cook the sugary juice for marmalade or syrup. Grated carrots mixed in rye flour gave a cheeper bread when the corn prizes were high. The dried root was grilled into a coffee substitute. Carrots were put in various soups - and today also used in all kinds of herbal soups, in chicken soup, in mixed stews etc.

In folk medicine the carrot plant was used to support the liver and the kidneys - and as a means for winds, stich in the side and as a love potion. It was said to help against obesity, poisoning, asthma , insomnia and colitis. Since the carotene in the plant helps the eye's retina to keep supple, it is used to cure night-blindness.

photo: grethe bachmann

Wild Apples/ Vilde Æbler

Malus species.


The ancient Egyptians planted apple trees by the Nile, the ancient Greeks cultivated apples - and the Etruscians and Romans cultivated apples. Wild apples have grown in Denmark since the beginning of time, but the cultivating of apples started not until the Middle Ages. The monasteries were significant for the spreading of apples in Europe. The earliest identification origins from a monastery in England in the year 1204.

The autumn is a treasure chest of wild raw materials . There are lots to be found- mushrooms, hazelnuts or wild apples, sloe, rowanberry, juniper berry, blackberry, cowberry, elderberry - probably a rich season this year.

The wild apples are sour and best mixed with cultivated apples in jelly, marmelade, stewed fruit apple wine and so on.

But if you have gathered some wild apples, then they are also fine in a Russian Apple Pie. (Sharlotka) First use dark, dry bread crums, and fry them in butter . Remove from heat and add red wine , lemon juice, sugar (a little more than usual) and orange peel. Mix well. Add vanilla sugar. Butter a tin well and sprinkle it lightly with dark bread crumbs . Put a layer of the bread crumb mix at the bottom of the tin, then a layer of thin apple slices and cinnamon. Eventually more layers. Finish with the bread crumb mix. Put the tin in the oven for moderate or low heat = 150 degrees and let it bake for a little hour. Serve it hot - eventually with whipped cream.

photo Hærvejen Mid Jutland: grethe bachmann

The Hunter

In the middle of the world that had always been a bit mad
the cat walks with confidence.

Rosanne Amberson


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Silver-washed Fritillary/Kejserkåbe

Argynnis paphia

Silver-washed Fritillary
Bjerre Skov, Horsens, Jutland

The Silver-washed Fritillary is active right now in July until late August, and each year I go to Bjerre forest by Vejle fjord to look for it. It flies in glades and sunny spots of the wood and loves the blackberry flowers. The Danish name Kejserkåbe means Emperor's Cape and this fine coloured pattern would certainly be a beautiful cape for an emperor. The Silver-washed fritillary lives in Europe except southern Spain, Scotland and the northern part of Scandinavia.

The Silver-washed fritillary butterfly is deep orange with black spots on the upper side of its wings and has a wingspan of 54–70 mm, with the male being smaller and paler than the female. The underside is green and unlike other fritillaries has silver streaks instead of silver spots, hence the name silver-washed. A rare variation in some years is a special female, which is green-black with a straw coloured base.

Unusually for a butterfly, the female does not lay her eggs on the leaves or stem of the caterpillar's food source (in this case violets) but instead one or two meters above the woodland floor in the crevices of tree bark close to clumps of violets. The larvae's fodder plants are various Violas.

The Silver-washed Fritillary is a strong flier and more mobile than other fritillaries and as such can be seen gliding above the tree canopy at high speed. Its flight is safe, fast and sailing and it seeks especially to flowers of blackberry and thistles. The mating dance, which can be watched on good localities in the morning, is very characteristic and beautiful. The male flies down under and then steep up in front of the female, who continues to fly straight on, while the male lose speed and once again dives down under and steep up in front of the female.

In Denmark Argynnis pahia is still common at Lolland-Falster, Møns Klint, Sydsjælland and Bornholm, but has during the 1970s and 1980s declined much in Jutland, at Funen, West- and North Sjælland.

Protection of the species:
This species needs many small and unfertilized glades. It thrives well in forests with extensive utilization, like in stævningsskove, (coppicing) which hold many glades in various growth. The Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) is on the Danish Red List as moderately endangered.

In the old days the Silver-washed Fritillary was especially connected to the stævningsskove (Coppicing woods). It is in a serious decline in Denmark, possibly caused by the lack of light-open varied forests. Until ab. 1990 it was numerous in North Jutland in Rold Skov and in Lille Vildmose, but after 1990 it is only known in a few examples, i.e. Rebild, and outside North Jutland in the forests by Vejle fjord, in Gudbjerg skov at Funen and Gribskov in North Sjælland. Still numerous populations in the rest of Sjælland, on the southern islands and Bornholm.

photo Bjerre Skov 17. July 2010: grethe bachmann