Green Wonders

Summer solstice – Midsummer celebrations

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 | Green Wonders, Your Guide To Nordic Nature | No Comments

Today – June 21st we have our longest day of the year. North of the polar circle the sun never sets – the midnight sun. This is because the Earth axial is tilted so that the northern hemisphere is closest to the sun. The opposite situation is occurring December 21st when we experience the longest night or even polar night. The bittersweet of Midsummer is that it is the time of the year when the days are starting to become shorter again.

The longest day of the year and especially the light warm night was thought of as the most magical of the year and was in pre-Christian times devoted to the gods of fertility. Still the Midsummer’s Eve that we celebrate this Friday is the most important holiday in Sweden. The summer is here and it is time to enjoy the gifts from nature. At a traditional Midsummer table you’ll find pickled herring, sourcream and chive, newly harvested potatoes (not the ones stored during winter) and locally produced strawberries. An important part is also the “snaps” and drinking songs. Besides food the Midsummer celebration includes creating and dancing around a Maypole. This maypole is featured as a cross with two rings hanging. It is covered by fresh branches from birch and lots of herbs collected in the morning. The maypole is raised and then there is traditional ringdances around it. Women and children also sometimes wear wreaths of herbs. Before going to bed all young girls should pick 7 (or 9 in some regions) flowers and cross 7 fences while remaining completely silent, and then put the flowers under their pillows to dream about their future husband. Happy Midsummer!

More about Midsummer at sweden.se

Midnight sun in Östersund. image by Sara Borgström

 

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The new generation is prospering

It is not silent in nature, but the sounds are different. The birds are not singing to attract each other, they are sounding to scare us away from their nests. There the youngsters are constantly whistling for more food. It is a busy time. Some birds  already  prepare for migrating southwards. For those who stay, it is all about eating and maybe also storage some for the harsher conditions. The days are long, the chlorophyll is pumping sun energy into the biosphere to feed all the newcomers. The flowers are stretching out their colorful petals to attract pollinators to their cups of sweet nectar. The pollen transportation system is the starting of new seeds and next summers display of flowers. Some seeds fill our baskets on the walk, blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries. Let your youngsters enjoy together with all kids out there!

Wild strawberries in Norrtälje, Sweden. image courtesy: Kim Koblet

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Year of biodiversity: How many species are there?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010 | Environment Update, Green Wonders | No Comments

During the last three years researchers have found 123 new species in the rain forests of Borneo, according to a report from WWF. It is simply amazing that despite all of the technological advances there are still new things to discover on our planet. In addition, the better the methods, the more fascinating the discoveries seem to become. These new species live in the most hostile environments and have developed amazing adaptations to survive. A rough estimation is that we share living space with approximately 8 million other species even if the scientists debate what a species really is and how many they are. Currently 2 million species have been described. However the discovery of new species has a hard time keeping pace with the extinction of species which to a great extent is related to human activities.

Pictures of some of the new species in Borneo

More on the work to protect biodiversity.

Map lichen, just one in in million. image courtesy: Sara Borgström

Map lichen, just one of millions. image courtesy: Sara Borgström

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Spots of sunshine

Friday, April 23rd, 2010 | Green Wonders | No Comments

One of the first herbs to appear in spring is the Coltsfoot (Tussilago or Hästhov in Swedish, Tussilago farfara in latin). Between the withered leaves and straws small yellow flowers appear as soon as the first snow is gone. The Swedish name translated as horse foot is related to the shape of the large leaves that appear later in the summer. In the past the leaves where used for brewing tea that was thought to mitigate cough. The Coltsfoot is a  so-called pioneer species that is found on bare soil on construction sites. Very common, but still a much welcome sign of spring.

farfara_small

Coltsfoot

For more coltsfoot visit The Relaxation Room at nordicwellbeing.com!

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Light brings life

Monday, March 22nd, 2010 | Green Wonders | No Comments

Currently the hours of daylight are increasing by 6 minutes each day at my latitudes and even if there has been a cold and snowy winter this year, the snow is disappearing at a fast speed. Furthermore, the sunlight is the driver of nature and hence tells all plants and animals that the spring is coming. In every tree branch, seed and hibernation life is coming back into motion. Being exposed to daylight is important for the production of vitamin D of importance for the creation of bone tissue in humans. In the Nordic countries all kids get extra vitamin D to compensate for the winter season when there are just a few, if any, hours of daylight.  The Nordic people are now coming out from their winter nests, turning their faces towards the sun and greeting each other.

Srping sun in Stockholm. image courtesy: Sara Borgström

Spring sun in Stockholm. image courtesy: Sara Borgström

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Green is the color of nature

Monday, November 16th, 2009 | Green Wonders | No Comments

Often nature is regarded as synonymous with green. The green color comes from the molecule called chlorophyll. This molecule is essential for photosynthesis – a process whereby carbon dioxide and water become oxygen and carbohydrates with the help of the sun. Each breath we take is dependent on this oxygen producing process in leaves, needles, herbs and grasses.
Falling temperature and fewer hours of daylight tell the trees that winter is coming. It is time to withdraw the chlorophyll from the leaves and store it for spring’s fresh foliage. When the green is gone the yellow background color of the leaves appears. The red color on the other hand is produced by the tree exclusively during the autumn and there is no clear understanding of why. Maybe the purpose is to scare damaging insects away. The brown leaves that fall to the ground seems to be dead but contain necessary nutrients for springtime greenery.

Oak leaves

Oak leaves

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