Sunday, September 15, 2013

Høvblege - an important Hillside for Plants and Butterflies

Høvblege is a hilly and very beautiful landscape at Møn, one of the Danish southsea islands. We went there on a day in July, it was a little misty, the sea and sky was almost one in the horizon and the sun stood behind the clouds but it still had the power of summer, it was a lovely day in mid-summer, and the air was warm and filled with a fine scent of all the various herbs.

Several plants here on the southsea islands are actually more spread south of the Baltic, but the climate is milder here on Møn than in the rest of Denmark and the soil conditions are better, the herbs have better living conditions than in the rest of the country. The soil of the hills is calcareous with spread juniper bushes and a rich flora. The place is from early spring till late autumn a myriad of blooming flowers, emitting a wonderful fragrance which  make you feel like you were in the south of France. And the insect and bird life is just as manifold.  

Dactylorhiza matulata ssp fuchsii, Common spotted orchid

Many orchid-species and several other rare and red-listed plants create here the livelihood for insects and birds, and it is - together with Jydelejet nearby - the nature area in Denmark , which has the largest number of red- and yellowlisted species and thus the greatest biodiversity. The background of this diversity is the mixture of the calcareous soil and the influence of the cattle-grazing. It is also very important to stop the pollution with nutrients.

The orchids at Høvblege are together with the other biodiversity of plants and animals one of the most important reasons that the area is being cared for by the help of Galloway cattle. The orchids have special requirements of their habitats, and they are very sensitive to changes in their environment. They are all totally listed - both here like everywhere. Several of these orchids are on the red-list of species, which are especially endangered and which are only found in few places.


The insectfauna
 is characteristic for warm and flowerrich isotops with large variations of the flora. These isotops are the habitats of several species which have either their only or their most important habitat in Denmark. The butterfly fauna is not very rich in diversity, but it is subject to several rare species; the same goes for the beetle fauna, which like the butterflies require light-open vegetation and a sunny warm surface with many herbs.

Fine-leaf Vetch, Vicia tenuifolia

Ononis, Rest-harrow
Nature is changing
It was such a lovely day on this hillside, a unique nature place upon the isle of Møn. There was a fragrance of flowers and a buzzing of bumblebees. There are not many places left like this.  Nature is changing, it has always been changing, but our role in this is more visible and crucial today than ever. I watched this little delicate and rare blue butterfly, both butterflies and bees and other insects have trouble just to survive in Denmark. Most of the country is cultivated - in many places cultivated right out in each corner of the landscape. I like the butterflies and I have tried to follow them, but I have noticed year by year that the wellknown species are not as many as they used to be. Well, some say this is a  butterfly year or this is not a butterfly year. But the fact is that the butterflies have trouble today finding their wellknown habitats. There is a larger distance between the necessary places than before. One of the reasons is the lacking fallow fields. A few years ago those fields were wiped out by a new law. The farmers were allowed to use the fallow fields, and the habitats of butterflies and bees and other insects simply disappeared. Some butterflies have now been extinct, some are on their way to disappear in the Danish nature. New butterflies have appeared in the country though, but this is not an excuse. I cannot help wondering how much nature will disappear in the Danish landscape in the future. Will our children one day have to learn about nature from film and pictures? Will they never experience a lovely day on a hillside with fragrant flowers and buzzing bumble bees ?        

Large Blue
Large Blue Butterfly
Maculinea arion (Danish: Sortplettet Blåfugl) This pretty blue butterfly has its only Danish habitat here at Høvblege. It does not tolerate soil fertilization. Since 1950 the Large Blue has been almost extinct - and since 1990 it was only found at Høvblege and a couple of places in North Jutland. It is red-listed and protected..
The Large Blue is protected acc. to  EF-habitatdirective and the Bern- konvention, and it must not be caught, killed or disturbed, and its habitats must not be damaged or destroyed. Its most important habitat is Høvblege at Møn, where the butterfly's habitat is secured by nature preservation, and the population has continued to perform.

Transparent Burnet

Transparent Burnet
Zygaena purpuralis( Danish: Timian Køllesværmer) is a moth, which  is fond of a warm and sunny habitat. Today the species is only known with certainty  from Høvblege. It thrives well at Høvblege, not least thanks to the nature preservation of the hills. But the size of the population varies each year. The decline of the Transparent Burnet in Denmark is mainly caused by cultivation and planting in the former localitites, later the species disappeared from its habitats at Zealand (Sjælland) caused by overgrowing with grasses and perrenials, and later bushes because ot the lack of grazing.

Peach-leaved Bellflower
Peach-leaved Bell-Flower
Campanula persicifolia ( Danish: Smalbladet Klokke) Beside the fine orchids  there are many pretty herbs at Høvblege, like the blue bell-flower, which had many nicknames in the old days: The Princess' Thimble, or Church Bell, or even The Devil's Thimble. The bell-flower was probably introduced by monks in the late Middle Ages, it was not popular in the gardens, where it was considered a troublesome weed and called the Gardens Plague or the Gardener's Fear. Like other herbs it was used as a medicine, also for the cattle. The juice of the leaves gave a blue colour, which was used for paintings and for writing documents. Mixed with alun the juice dyed green. The plant was actually cultivated, since the root was edible, and the leaves were used as a salad.
The children played with the flowers; they put them on their fingers as a thimble, a flower was pressed with two fingers at the top and beaten against the other hand and a little bang sounded. The children put bees into the big bell-flowers and kept them there. Poor bees! If a person was able to turn around a bell flower without breaking it, a wish would be fullfilled

 Salad Burnet 

Salad Burnet, foto stig bachmann nielsen,
Sanguisorba minor (Danish: Blodstillende Bibernelle) is  native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia, it was naturalized in most of North America. It is rare in Denmark, where it grows on calcareous banks and edge of roads. When cultivated it is used as an ingredient in both salads and dressings, it has a flavor like a light cucumber and is considered interchangeable with mint leaves in some recipes. The youngest leaves are used, as they tend to become bitter as they age. Salad Burnet has the same medicinal qualities as medicinal burnet Sanguisorba officinalis. It was used as a tea to relieve diarrhea in the past. As for history it was called a favorite herb by Francis Bacon and was brought to the New World with the first English colonists, even getting special mention by Thomas Jefferson.

Austrian Flax
Linum austriacum, Austrian Flax
Linum austriacum (Danish: Østrigsk Hør) The azureblue flowers of the Austrian flax looks lovely among the pretty pink orchids upon the hills. The Austrian flax was introduced to Denmark from south of the Baltic. The Austrian flax is protected.  The Common Flax with the pale blue flowers grows wild here at Høvblege too. Flax is a wellknown culture plant, it is cultivated as a food and fiber crop, the fibres are 2 or 3 times stronger than those of cotton. It is also grown for the edible linseed oil, which also is used as a drying oil in paint and varnish and used for linoleum and painting inks. Flax was already cultivated in ancient China and ancient Egypt.
In early tellings of the Sleeping Beauty tale, such as Sun, Moon and Talia by G. Basile, the princess pricks her finger not on a spindle but on a sliver of flax, which is later sucked out by her children, conceived as she sleeps.

Bladder Campion

Bladder Campion
Silene vulgaris (Danish: Blæresmælde) don't actually look edible -  but it reallys is, although it is not known for this in Denmark. The plant is used as a food in Spain and in Italy, where it is known as sculpit or stridolo. Although the plant contains Saponin, which may be dangerous if it goes directly into the blood, the young leaves and shots may be used as food, the tender leaves may be eaten raw in salads, but the older leaves are usually eaten boiled or fried, sauteed with garlic as well as in omelettes and risotto in Italy. In Cyprus it is eaten very widely, so much so it has now for some years come back into being cultivated and sold in shops in bunches. Although the flowers are open in the day, a scent streams out from them in the evening to lure the insects, which are active at night.

Folk Medicine
In the old days people threw bladder campion plants out into the water, if they wanted to get rid of the fish.
In folk medicine it was used in baths in order to soften dry skin. The juice from the plant was used for treating inflamed eyes.

In Gotland (Sweden) the plant is called Tarald (meaning provoking tears). People meant that they could drive away trolls and other underground people with the plant. If a troll touched a bladder campion, he would be caught by a sorrow so deep that he began to cry. Therefore the Tarald was considered one of the strongest ways to drive away the dangerous creatures. Similar to this is the English Maiden's Tears, and there might be a cultural connection here.

Prunella /Self-heal

Prunella vulgaris, ( Danish: Brunella), known as Common Self-heal or Heal-all grows in all the northern hemisphere and is introduced to Australia and China. It grows north to Troms in Norway and rather high upon the mountains. The plant was always used in medicine. The English herbalist Nicholas Culpepper describes in his work The English Physician (1652) the English name Selfheal. " that if someone gets hurt he can heal himself with this herb". John  Gerard, another English herbalist and physician, wrote in the 1500s that " there is no better healing herb in the world". So medicinally, the whole plant is poulticed onto wounds to promote healing. Like Rosmarin (Rosmarin officinalis) and Salvie (Salvia officinalis) it is a strong antioxidant, which protects the tissue against chronic diseases. A mouthwash made from an infusion of the whole plant can be used to treat sore throats, thrush and gum infections. Internally, a tea can be used to treat diarrhea and internal bleeding. The plant has active ingredients like camphor and etheric oils; it easens and relieves cramps, inflammation, scratch, swollings and fever and heals wounds to some extent. The earlier name Brunelle vulgaris comes from the German Bruen, which means sore throat.

In traditional Chinese medicine, where the plant is considered to have anti-inflammatoric and cooling properties Prunella is a main ingredient in one of China's most popular drinks: Wanglaoji.

Field Cow-wheat
Field Cow-wheat
Melampyrum arvense (Danish: Ager Kohvede). This European plant flowers from June to September and is favoured by a dry habitat and chalky soil.  It is distributed throughout most of Western Europe.  In Great Britain it only occurs in a few locations in south-east England. It is becoming rarer, this may be due to a reduced area of arable land and changes in farming practices, such as seed-cleaning and intensification. The Field Cow-wheat is rare in Denmark and is only found on the Isles on coastal banks and pastures with calcareous soil.

This species is hemiparasitic, commonly on the roots of grasses but also on those of other plants. It cannot flourish without a host from which to take nutrients. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees. The seeds may be dispersed by ants which are attracted by a small oil body attached to each seed and which carry them to their nests for food. Field Cow-wheat is an annual weed of arable fields. The seeds are poisonous because they hold aucubin.

Origanum vulgare
Origanum vulgare (Danish: Almindelig Merian) is a herb with a bushy growth.The whole plant has glands with etheric fragrant oils, and the nectare of the flowers is eagerly sought by bees, bumblebees and butterflies. The dried leaves are being used as a spice herb, but also as a tea. Origanum is widespread in the world, in Denmark it is common on the Isles, but rare in Jutland. It is a typical prairie plant, which grows in light-open spaces with a well-drained and calcareous soil. A special quality of the Origanum is -  like in Sweet Gale and Peppermint -  that is sends out a strong fragrance, even when it is not flowering. It can be used in dying wool and gives a brownred colour. Origanum was also used in Black Magic, like in witch spells and exorcism. In a Swedish herbal book from 1642 it is said: "the juice from this herb mixed with women's milk and put into the ears drives away pain in the ears." 

Alfalfa, Medicago sativa, (Danish Lucerne) is cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. The English name alfalfa is widely used, particularly in North America. But in the UK Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, the more commonly used name is lucerne. It superficially resembles clover, with clusters of small purple flowers. It has been cultivated as livestock fodder since at least the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
This plant exhibits autotoxicity, which means it is difficult for lucerne seed to grow in existing stands of lucerne. Therefore, lucerne fields are recommended to be rotated with other species before reseeding.
Lucerne has been used as an herbal medicine for over 1500 years. In early Chinese medicines physicians used lucerne leaves to treat disorders related to the digestive tract and the kidneys. Lucerne was also believed to be beneficial to people suffering from arthritis and water retention. .


Source. Den danske flora, folk og flora, wikipedia,
text and photo Høvblege July 2013: grethe bachmannand stig bachmann nielsen,


Carolyn said...

I hate to hear of disappearing nature, Grethe. Denmark? I've always thought of Denmark as being picturesque such as your blog depicts.

I hate it when once beautiful natural environments are torn down for progress... bah

I love that picture of the little bird on the slender twig! with its mouth wide open… does your government set aside some areas as national treasures not to be messed with? such as our National Parks?

Beautiful photographs as always … ;)

Out on the prairie said...

What a nice collection of beauty

Thyra said...

Hej Carolyn, yes there are areas set out for National Parks. Fortunately. the government cannot spoil everything. There are people who make efforts to preserve nature (like where you live). I'm angry about this law about the fallow fields, it is mostly about money. And when the animals disappear then it is too late to want them back - they'll not just return when we want. Then the politicians will say "Why has this happened?" You see I'm still angry!!!`Or else I'm in a good mood!

Thank you for your kind words.
Grethe ´)

Thyra said...

Hello Steve, thank you very much.
I have been following your blog to see your pretty photos from the prairie.
Grethe `)