Tag Archives: wildflowers

Wild about Transylvania 2

It’s been cooler here this past few days, so I’ve been able to get out a bit more and take some photographs. I continue to be fascinated by the similarities and differences in the local wildlife as compared with the Somerset Levels.

Farms on the Somerset Levels were once major producers of teasels for the wool industry. These were cultivated teasels, Dipsacus sativus, which are better for that purpose than the wild type, Dipsacus fullonum. They were grown up until the 1980s, but have since disappeared, leaving only the wild type, which are pinky, mauve colour:

Common Teasel Suffolk geograph-2520655-by-Shazz

Here in Transylvania, we have found a different type altogether. This is the Cut-leaved Teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus:

Teasel 3s

Cut-leaved Teasel: Dipsacus laciniatus

Laciniatus refers to its toothed leaves, but its bracts are also straighter, giving a more spiky effect. This is how it looked from the top:

Teasel 2s

Cut-leaved Teasel: Dipsacus laciniatus

The Cut-leaved teasel is native to this area. However, the Black Locust tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, is not. It’s native to SE USA, but has been widely planted and naturalised elsewhere, including Romania. It thrives in hot, sunny weather and can be recognised by its compound leaves (with many smooth-edged leaflets) and by its thorns:

Black Locust 3s

Black Locust 2s

Black Locust: Robinia pseudoacacia

One of the reasons it has become naturalised here is because it is grown to produce honey. Apparently, it’s very good honey, too, which might explain why there are so many beekeepers:

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Bee hives at Luna de Sus

The Black Locust is not in flower at present, however, so the bees must make do with  a plant that is much more familiar in Somerset:

Birds-foot Trefoil

Bird’s Foot Trefoil: Lotus corniculatus

As for the bears, who knows? They may be down in the woods picnicking on honey at this very moment…

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Forests of the Apuseni Mountains

 

Wild about Transylvania

One of the first things I noticed on our ‘walks’ in and around the village was the abundance of wild chicory:

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Wild chicory: Cichorium intybus

We’d seen this in Worcester before we left, but it had been planted specially, as part of a wildflower mix. Here, it is simply part of the landscape, as can be seen in the following pictures:

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These conical haystacks are also to be found everywhere – in both fields and gardens. And the white flowers are mostly wild carrot, which also grows in abundance:

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Fields in Cluj County, Romania

You can tell it by the purplish coloured flower at the centre of the white umbrel:

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Wild Carrot: Daucus Carota

And because it curls up into these wonderful bird nest shapes when it is going to seed:

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Wild Carrot: Daucus Carota

I also spotted some knapweed up on the hill amongst the wild carrot. I think this is the brown variety:

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Brown Knapweed: Centaurea Jacea

Of course, the abundance of wildflowers attracts bees and other insects, with the bees being particularly fond of the knapweed and chicory:

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I saw a number of butterflies as well as other wildflowers on my excursion this morning, but the former had clearly taken lessons in avoided the paparazzi and flitted away before I could get close enough to identify them!

However, I was able to catch a good enough view of the red-backed shrike to recognise him before he disappeared. This was a ‘first’ for me, as these are now a very rare sight in the UK, having only bred there a couple of times since the 1960s. However, I understand they are a common sight here, so I’ve borrowed a photograph in order to show him off:

 

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Male Red-backed Shrike: Lanius Collurio: Photo by Antonis Tsaknakis (released under a Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

Consider how the wildflowers grow

Weeds! Don’t they just love this time of year? They grow and they grow and they grow, like the proverbial beanstalk. So, last weekend, I decided it was time to do battle. One of our smaller rose bushes was rapidly disappearing behind the wilderness that passes for our front border. Most of the invaders came out without difficulty. They were the sort that depend on sheer numbers to defeat you. However, there were two or three large dandelions that put up condsiderable resistance to removal and ultimately won their way. Their return is as certain as something out of Friday the 13th, though perhaps less sinister.

In the midst of the wilderness, I found several slugs and snails, some woodlice, some ants and a couple of spiders. The slugs and snails are the reason we grow weeds instead of lupins. Weeds are actually a whole lot easier to grow. What’s more, some of them are quite pretty, like the forget-me-nots, for instance. Weeds are also resistant to just about every bug you care to mention and they are extremely good at propagating themselves. And this, of course, is the secret of their success. The weeds are clever. Not that they know this. Or, if they do, they don’t care. All they are interested in is growing with reckless abandon wherever they should happen to find themselves. The weeds are cool.

I was at a church service a couple of weeks ago where this very point was made. The leader quoted from this book. I have no memory of the exact words because I only heard them once, but the essential point was that weeds grow without thought or effort or worry or even any sense of propriety. They just get on with it, which is why my lawn looks like this:

Daisies

Daisies

Not much use if you like to play bowls or croquet, but wonderful for making daisy chains. And so much more colourful than grass! I love them!

Meanwhile, the hedgerows are also bursting with colour and life at the moment. All the rain we had over the winter has made them more lush than ever. For example, I found some nettles on Saturday that were as tall as or taller than me:

Nettles

Nettles

On Sunday afternoon, we found some orchids springing up on the side of a hill:

Common Spotted Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid

Then, yesterday afternoon, making my usual detour back from the pharmacy, I found these:

Bramble flowers

Bramble flowers

Ox-eye daisies

Ox-eye daisies

Plantain

Plantain

Dog roses

Dog roses

Vetch

Vetch

They may not have quite the splendour of my ornamental roses, but they have their own wild, reckless and even intricate beauty. In one case, they also hold the promise of some delicious fruit. In the Bible, they are often likened to the enemy, for obvious reasons. But they also make a very good parable of God’s kingdom. They are like the mustard seed that grows big enough to provide a home to the birds. They are like the yeast that spreads throughout the whole dough. They get everywhere and they provide many good things – pollen, nectar, fruit, seeds, sap, shelter… Just as God’s people are asked to do.

‘Consider how the wildflowers grow. They neither labour nor spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these…’ (Luke 12:27)

Weeds are cool.