Sunday, January 18, 2015

Orpine stonecrop/ Sankthansurt

Hylotelephium telephium 

Flora and Fauna
Viborg the Latin Garden, photo GB


Orpine stonecrop is a 20-50 cm tall plant with oval fleshy leaves and numerous yellow-green, yellow-white or purple flowers in umbel-like flat tops in August-September. It is a succulent perennial groundcover of the family Crassulaceae (same family as goldmoss stonecrop)  and native to Eurasia. It is widespread in Caucasus, Centralasia, East Asia , Sibiria and Europe

A number of cultivars, often with purplish leaves, are grown in gardens as well as hybrids between this species and the related Hylotelephium spectabile (Iceplant) , especially the popular Sedum 'Herbstfreude' ('Autumn Joy'). Occasionally garden plants may escape and naturalise as has happened in parts of North America as wildflowers.

There are several subspecies including:
  • H. telephium ssp. fabaria - West & Central Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. maximum - Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. ruprechtii - North-east Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. telephium - Central & East Europe

This species (and some of its close relatives) are sometimes still placed in the genus Sedum.

Orpine stonecrop or simply orpine has various names like : frog's stomach - harping Johnny - life-everlasting - live forever - Midsommermen - Orphan John - Witch's Moneybags.

The orpine stonecrop grows in  stone fences, thickets, slopes, beach-fields, pastures  and old thatched roofs.

The common orpine (H. ss. maximum) with yellowgreen flowers is common in Denmark in oak thicket, stone dikes, dry slopes , pastures and beach banks. The red orpine H. subspecies telephium with purple flowers are found as feral here and there in Denmark.

The butterfly Copper (Ildfugl) and various other butterflies and insects feed on the nectare from the flowers in August-September.

Purple orpine, Dragstrup church, N.Jutland /gb

Folk Medicine
Orpine stonecrop is not used anymore in medicine. Earlier a decoction from the leaves were used against painful urination. As a folk remedy the fresh crushed leaves were put upon burns, corns etc. And the plant was put upon the shoulder until it withered as a means against haemorroids!

Orpine was sold from pharmacies as an ointment which stopped blood and pains in the genitals. The crushed plant was used as a wound-healing cover. In order to cure nosebleed the leaves were put on the forehead and the juice in the nostrils. The plant was part of a vinegar decoction used as an ointment upon lumps and to reduce swellings.



Edward Robert Hughes:Midsummer Eve 1908: wikipedia.
On Midsummer Evening people went out to pluck the orpine. (a Danish custom) They hung stalks up under a beam in the house with names for each member of the household - and omens were taken for every stalk and each name, mostly about who would die and when. The stalk which withered first told that this person would die as the first and he or she might even die before the end of the year. A bad divination!

But stalks were also hung up by the young girls in order to see "Who will be my sweetheart?" and "From where will he come?" This depended on in which direction the branch grew.

Two plants were hung up for the newly wed to see how their marriage would be. Would they get divorced or live happily -. depending if the plant grew to or from each other. Sideshoots meant how many children they would get.

The father of the house took omens about his children's future and development.

But the orpine could also protect against witchcraft and no witch could get into the house where an orpine was hung by the door. 

Purple orpine at Dragstrup church, N.Jutland/gb

A sick cow which might have been exposed to magic should have orpine with buttermilk, and if a cow gave bloody milk it was given orpine cooked in cream milk
A horse with lice was rubbed with juice from orpine mixed with quick lime - and against witchcraft some steel and a piece of the root were placed in the horse grime or between the ears. .

Other use:
To plant the orpine upon the mønning(roof ridge) was a custom which kept the roof ridge whole and strong.

The plant dyes yellow with alum.

Especially the purple orpine is a very popular garden plant. New plants can be made from the leaves.

Brøndegaard, Dansk etnobotanik, Folk og flora, bd. 3,  Sankthansurt.
Wikipedia; Danish: Sankthansurt English: Orpine.. 

photo: grethe bachmann 2007

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Goldmoss Stonecrop/ Bidende Stenurt

Sedum acre

Goldmoss stonecrop, church dike: photo gb
Flora and Fauna

Goldmoss stonecrop (wikipedia)

Goldmoss stonecrop (Bidende stenurt) is a low-growing perrenial plant of the family Crassulaceae or Stonecrop.  Common names besides goldmoss stonecrop are mossy stonecrop, biting stonecrop and wallpepper. The plant forms mat-like stands. It stores water in the fleshy leaves and is called a succulent.

Stonecrop has starry yellow flowers which form a three to six flowered cyme and the fruit is five-united with many seeded follicles. The leaves can be reddish brown in the autumn.
Goldmoss stonecrop is native to Europe but also naturalized in North America and New Zealand. It is common n Denmark except in West Jutland. It grows in thin dry soils on shingle beaches, dry stone walls, dry banks, seashore rocks, roadside verge,  wasteland and sandy meadows near the sea.

Goldmoss stonecrop, church dike, Himmerland /gb.
Goldmoss stonecrop is a popular plant in rockeries as an ornamental.  It grows well in poor soils, sand, rock gardens, and rich garden soil, under a variety of light levels. However, it does not thrive in dense shade with limited water. The spread of seed can easly make the plant weed-like on dry and warm soil.

The leaves and the stalks have a bitter taste due to alkaloids. The leaves contain an acid fluid that can cause skin rashes. If people eat of the plant it might cause damage in skin and mucious membranes.Goldmoss stonecrop is not recomended in medicine today

Folk Medicine
1546: Acc. to Henrik Smid the Goldmoss stonecrop has the same healing powers as houseleek, the juice made people vomit and "peasants and simple folks" used stonecrop as an emetic.
Stonecrop was used as a dissolving cover upon nails.  A decoction mixed with alum and honey was used as a drink against scurvy and as a mouthwash for bad gums and loose teeth.
Dried and crushed goldmoss stonecrop against epilepsy. The juice or crushed leaves were put upon 
hard nodules or swollen glands.

Urglaawe (FOLKLORE) Biting stonecrop is known as Graddliche-Meed-un-Buwe, Eisegraut, Mauermoos, and Quekarmeedel in Deitsch. In Urglaawe it is considered to be a sacred plant due to its association with the Teutonic god Dunner. ( see the god Thor

White stonecrop/ Hvid stenurt /Sedum album 
white stonecrop, photo wikipedia

 The plant on the left is relatively drought stressed and the one on the right is well watered
 (photo: wikipedia)

White stonecrop has white flowers, redspotted leaves and dark red anthers. It favours alkaline calciferous soil and grows here and there in Denmak and is feral on stone dikes
It is found in the northern temperate regions of the world, often growing in crevices or free-draining rocky soil. As a long-day plant it grows vegetatively for most of the year and flowers in June and July. 

White stonecrop is popular in garden rockeries. It thrives on a very thin soil that would not be enough for other plants. The fleshy water storing leaves help the plant to survive long periods of drought.
White stonecrop was used as a medical cover upon haemorroids and against cancer.

Both white stonecrop and rocky stonecrop were cultivated and eaten as a salad in some places in Denmark.

If people had a stonecrop which a raven was fetching to save its young bird it maade the carrier invisible 

Rocky stonecrop /Bjergstenurt/ Sedum rupestre/Sedum releflexum   with yellow flowers, also known as reflexed stonecrop, Jenny's stonecrop and prick-madam. It is native to northern, central and southwestern Europe. The rocky stonecrop grows in the same habitats as white stonecrop.  Like white stonecrop it is a popular ornamental plant in the garden. There are named cultivars with variegated leaves.

Brøndegaard, Dansk etnobotanik,Folk og flora bd 3. . 
wikipedia : Dansk og engelsk Sedum/ Stenurt.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Green Fields in Winter

A Taste of Denmark

The winterseed creates lovely green fields during the winter season. On a  mild day in December the sun was shining through a haze across the winter-green fields.

The green fields are also good for geese and whooper swans who do some grazing up here North in winter.

You might almost believe that this is a spring morning and the church bell is ringing for service, but it is in the afternoon and the sun is already slowly on its way down.

If the winter is hard it can be a very costy business for the farmer. The extra expenses can be enormous if the seed is damaged. The winter is mild until now, sometimes with plus 10 Celsius which is a very high temperature in December.  But you can never tell. January and February can be a tough period for the winter seed.

A cosy little village lies surrounded by green fields.

A centralization in the 1960s meant that many shops, manufacturing business and schools have disappeared from the villages. But the increasing interest for the local community, environment and nature has caused that many villages have become attractive for people who are commuting to their job or go shopping in the big cities.

In some regions called udkantsDanmark  ( outskirtsDenmark) are problems because the necessary  jobs are only to find in the big cities. One of the results are many empty houses in the villages and no shops at all. A sad development.

It looks so peaceful and beautiful. This might be a scene from a Jane Austen film with d'Arcy and Elizabeth coming in from the right.............

Now it's later in the afternoon and the green fields are darker green.  Today's painters do not (usually) create their paintings outdoors. ( Maybe when they do watercolours). But when it was common to work on a painting outdoors they had to work fast in order to catch the light and the shades which many French impressionists have described. .

The last landscape from this day in December. The light is quickly fading. See you next time!

 photo East Jutland December 2014: grethe bachmann

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Railway Bridge comes to Life after 100 Years.

A very special project with the initiative from Horsens municipality has been carried through in 2014 near Vestbirk in East Jutland. 

A dam was built in 1929 in order to cover a railway-steel-bridge between  the town Vestbirk and Bryrup in connection to the necessary extension of the railway tracks. At that time it was decided to let the steel grid bridge be kept under the earth of the dam.  The bridge was a sleeping beauty for more than a hundred years, but now it is re-established. The project is economically supported by EU and by the Danish  ministeries of environment, food, agriculture and fishing.

The purpose of this  project is to create a free passage for fish in the river Gudenaa. In connection to the digging-work it has shown that the steel of the bridge is in a very good condition - and it is quite  unique that there is now a possibility to recreate the water flow conditions as they were in 1899.

The fish today - first of all the sea trout and the stalling -  have difficulties in passing the stretch at Vestbirk, but the problem is solved now by removing the dam and open the passage at the river Gudenaa . The water restoration is not only good for the fish - also for bats, insects, frogs etc.

The pretty red-painted railway bridge (a height of 15 meter)  is situated at the most beautiful railway stretch in Denmark and the place will probably be a great attraction to people in general - also in connection to the various nature paths in the area. The bridge can be used by pedestrians and bikers. It is about 50 meter long and can carry a weight of 50 tons.

Source  Horsens Kommune, Vibeke Juul

photo 2014: grethe bachmann 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Viborg and Dollerup in September

A Taste of Denmark

Dollerup Bakker is a popular destination for hikers and bikers. From the top of the hills are several magnificent views across the lake Hald. On the other side of the hills is a large heath as far as you can see. The hills lie by Hald Sø (lake) which is one of the deepest lakes in Denmark ( 31 m). The lake was created in the latest Ice Age by a gigantic ice lump. The ice melted and formed the very hilly terrain which is a part of the Mid Jutland heath. There are large height differences in the area. 

A view from my favorite resting place down to Hald sø. Far away you can see the town Viborg, but it was a misty day. It is late in September and nature is still mild and warm. A small copper (lille ildfugl) was still flying around in the fine weather.

There are lots of cowberry-bushes but the berries seem to have been picked already here. Cowberry or lingonberry is not a commercial product today, but during earlier centuries they were a welcome extra profit for women and children from the simple living peasant-families on the Jutland heath. Women and children sold the berries to the local grocers, who sent most of the portion to Copenhagen. 30.000 kilo were sold in a record year as late as 1947. The owner of the "cowberry-parcel" got a certain quantum of the berries or the peasant-family might do some work for him in order to keep the allowance. It was also a common thing to dry berries in the oven and sell them later at high prices.  The women did not tolerate any foreigners on "their land". If some foreign woman arrived she was chasen away with much trouble and physical fights. This was great entertainment for the children.

People used the dried leaves for a nice tasting tea.

In the oak coffin of the Egtved Girl from Bronze Age was found some cowberry wine.  

During the latest years the Danish forest- and nature management and the municipality of Viborg have been working on a large restoration and reestablishment of the original nature in Dollerup, so it now appears as the almost lost culture landscape from the Middle Denmark. Among other things many trees , which did not belong on the heath, were removed. As late as in the winter 2008-2009 large parts of self-grown trees were removed and light open spaces were created . They are necessary in order to reestablish the worth conserving heath and pasture landscape in Dollerup Bakker. Other places are kept open by goats and sheep.

In September was a city-feast in Viborg. with many various activities  Viborg is a nice and cosy town with many fine cafès and restaurants, museums and interesting places for the whole family. Also the surroundings of the town holds many attractions. You can see it on the website

market day
Music in the street.
What a big dog! Is it the Danish Dog?
The fine dog has spotted me. It looks friendly don't it?
"See me hop see me run!"  Are they really alive?

market day


In Viborg is a Latin garden (Latinerhaven).In the 1700s it belonged to the old Latin school. The garden was taken over by Viborg municipality in 1928 after the Latin school stopped. The garden is divided into various sections with flowers, perrenials and rhododendrons - and a newer section with snaps-herbs.

photo September 2014 in Viborg and Dollerup Bakker: grethe bachmann