Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Woodland Berries in Swedish Forests & Gardens

Just when I thought there were no berries this year, I find exceptions to the rule. While the common traditional ones for human consumption were scare this year with a terrible No Show Summer which was mostly rained out (and is continuing to the present), there were some surprises today.

Photo: Mine
Viburnum opulus  Woodland Shrub-like tree. Common name examples  Olvon (Swedish) - Guelder-rose (Dutch) - European Cranberry (British) 
Olvon Bär - Viburnum opulus
This shrub-like tree which I've never seen more than six or seven foot tall here with multiple suckering or spreading clones forming small thickets near my Trolley stop has always been an eye catcher not only this time of year with fruit, but even in spring when in flowers. It's foliage is beautiful and somewhat Maple-like in shape and appearance. I tasted it last year and this year, but it's a bit tart and sour. I didn't die so it's not poisonous. Apparently here it is used for flavouring and some make jelly from it. It is spread by bird usage as food source. I definitely want to collect some berries and propagate, but more likely will get some root cuttings and make some clones which will be faster in spreading it. It would be a perfect background plant along my back fence.

European Elderberry Tree along the
Önskevädersgatan Trolley Stop

This is one of those more familiar trees to many people. These clusters to the left in the photo were not quite ripe. People here are crazy about the Elderberry juice(Saft) here, the Elderberry Jelly or Jam(Sylt) and just general fresh eating of these berry clusters. I never experienced this in all my years of growing up in Southern California where Mexican Elderberry is everywhere and very productive. A drink is also made from the flowers in springtime. This tree is found in the wild everywhere here where the the forest opens up along the fringes of meadows.

Photo by Gabi Mclean

Mexican Elderberry (Sambacus mexicana)

by Gabi McLean
The folks in Southern California pay no attention to the varieties of Elderberry which are native there. Yet I know they see it almost everywhere. But development has taken a bit of a toll. The above picture shows it in association with chaparral. I use to spot it looking for Native American Village sites in San Diego Co. That and Prickly Pear Cactus were a give away as no doubt much of both these plant's abundance was no doubt the result of spread by humans. Both plants most always will be found around Metate grinding holes in granite slab rocks. I have always found the fruit productivity of both the Mexican and European Elderberry to be very much equal. In fact I believe the Mexican Elderberry to be more productive as a result of being out in the open as opposed to many here which are shaped more leggy by forest competition for light. Didn't mean to veer off track here, but I'm determined to get people to know what gems there are in the southwest for their garden. (* See Footnote Bottom of page)

Photo: Mine
I have to admit I'm not sure what this small tree in the woods is, but there were two separate ones which every year have different coloured berries as seen below.

Notice the difference in colour, 
Every year has been the same.

Northern European Hawthorn Tree

Many will recognize this plant. There are many native varieties to North America and Europe. It is often used to make Hedgerows which bloom white flowers in spring and these deep red berries in fall. Incredibly it is a well known plant used by Herbalists who create a gentle heart tonic that can nurture a person's entire circulatory system. There are countless other uses with this particular plant. It is said for someone with heart trouble, that a ounce of Hawthorn is worth a pound of cure. It's incredible how much knowledge about these wonderful plants has been gained over the centuries and at the same time lost as people put their confidence and trust into some of the very technology which is causing the Earth so many health problem issues. There is a Vietnamese store here which sells many Asian food stuffs here in Gothenburg. One of my flavourites is a fruit leather made of Hawthorn berries.

Honeysuckle Flowers Still Blooming

Honeysuckle vine loaded with Berries

Honeysuckle Berries
These bottom flowers were at a neighbour's place where we live and the top one further on down in another development's gardens. The further on down plant was mostly loaded with berries while the other plant was mostly flowers with no berries. These are another one of those edible flowers and berry plants. The berries taste exactly like the flowers if you've ever plucked one and pulled on the stem to reveal the sweet drop of nectar. As an interesting aside educational point, the Audubon Society article posted some research about how an invasive honeysuckle has changed the colour of bird feathers who feed on these wonderful berries. It has helped us to understand the importance of diet and how great variety in various creatures worldwide is accomplished by epigenetic mechanisms as opposed to long help belief in dumb luck and random mutations in creating species variety.
Audubon: "Mystery Solved: Invasive Berries to Blame for Turning Flickers’ Feathers Pink"

Photo: Mine

I don't really know what this shrub is but it is used as an Ornamental in the commercial landscapes here. This is at the Eketregatan  (Oak Tree Drive) Trolley Stop. I once saw a young lady in a hurry to catch a Bus and she stopped long enough to pick a cluster of these and put one in her mouth. That caught my attention so I did the same and they weren't bad. Now she wasn't exactly Swedish and I find many immigrants will eat the berries here. Near my house in the forest you'll see African Immigrant kids playing with Swedish kids and showing them what Bush foods are safe to eat and what are not. Leave to Africans to know their Bush foods, even in another country. *smile*

Cottoneaster Plant showing off it's Berries
I know this was a berry themed page but I have to show off some beautiful flowers that are blooming with a vengeance despite the lousy weather over here. I couldn't pass these up.
Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine

Healthy example of a Jackdaw
These last two shots are of a Magpie and a Jackdaw birds. Both of these birds were much smaller than normal larger specimens of their respective breeds. They both looked undernourished somehow and feather color not the brightest and sharpest I've ever seen. But they stuck together like friends helping one another scratch the ground and find food. Both bird groups have fairly large plump well fed looking members within their clans.

Both kept close together and followed one another around, almost touching one another. The pictures really don't do the behavior justice. I really needed a film as this was odd and yet entertaining. I felt sorry for them in a way because no doubt they may had been rejected by their own kind, but they found one another for companionship who had what appeared to be the same similar circumstances. Many animal species will have a cooperative behaviour at times for survival. Especially in things such as hunting and gathering food where each one has a unique set of skills the other lacks. Perhaps this is what was going on here. In any event, I wished I had had at the time a video camera to capture and document this spectacle.

Photo: Mine

Neither picture really does justice for what I saw and observed. In fact when I stopped at first having their togetherness presence catch my eye, neither were really afraid of me. They were only 3 feet away going about their business. I just came back from Grocery shopping walking back from the Trolley on a pathway and had to take my camera out again. By that time they moved on. On a last minute note here for western Gardeners. I've got to go back to the Mexican Elderberry as a great landscape and wildlife plant, even IF you don't want to eat them. Here's an example of a great southwestern styled landscape where the Mexican Elderberry fits in nicely.
* Footnote from top
Photo from Dave's Gardens
The normally shrubby to the ground tree can be nicely shaped into a small tree with typical umbrella style pattern. Not bad for a Native Organic Garden or Landscape Theme.


  1. Berries - yes, many berry plants, but that's great the African kids can recognize edible ones by certain traits that far away! Scandinavia does not look that drab with those colors, I must say.

    Mexican Elder...needs water or an oasis here, but so common. Our little pond and it's few big horticultural fish were parroting how it "wasn't hardy" here, yet in all the valley areas and barrios, there were old ones like the one you show, as well as in the yards of numerous residents originally from El Paso or Las Cruces, where that is a common tree. Once again, the "experts" ate crow...it because they don't get where they are. In Abq, we are just cool enough, that they don't often go summer deciduous, like they do 200 miles south.

    I bet they go summer-deciduous in inland areas of So Cal. But I remember all of them in the canyon mouths throughout. I think the same species, but a higher elevation provenance, occurs in SE Arizona and SW NM into El Paso, but you can never find them for sale - I wonder if our's are strongly winter-deciduous, which I would think they were.

    All our Mexican Elder trees are from California plants, it is reported, and the leaf does look different than ours, plus from CA, it wants to grow all winter and even flower in warm periods...not always a good thing in the higher deserts. The 2/2011 freeze-killed many in Abq and especially El Paso down to the bottoms of the trunks. (in El Paso, early Feb they are already softer than Abq, since their spring growing season is 4 weeks ahead of us)

    1. When up in the mountains above Preskit and the Hualapai mountains above Kingman AZ, we have gone hiking and seen the forest elderberry there in Arizona among the aspen Trees. They were always plentiful in producing especially on alluvial flood plains if there was no permanent surface waters.

      I'm sure Mrs Christmas Mountain Oasis Ohl-Johnson has one or two



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