Looduskalenderin Vikerraadio: Swan flower

Submitted by Looduskalender on Tue, 07.08.2018 - 21:54

The author, Kristel Vilbaste, also presents texts in Vikerraadio

Photos by Arne Ader

Translation into English by Maret

Estonian text posted 19.07.2018


Swan flower


Fireweed has stretched open its long cluster of flowers and already its topmost tuft is blooming. But the hairy hill willow-herb is only starting and coltsfoot is still just ripe for picking to relieve men’s health troubles.

Tall yellow pillars  -  mulleins  -  stretch themselves tall in meadows, both the yellow great or common mulleins and also the dark mulleins with their bluish bloom centres. However, their flatter and sparser counterpart, the common agrimony, is at the end of its blooming season.

Valerian is dropping its last pinkish flowers and when you dig out its root, you find that it already has the pungent smell that makes cats go crazy. The white, brooch-shaped wild carrot is in full bloom on roadsides in western Estonia; the wild parsnip, however, has just about finished blooming.

On the shores of ponds and lakes you can find some interesting quite tall plants. Two of them have lovely pinkish flowers: water plantain and swan flower. Both of them look a lot like the moth orchids you can buy in gardening stores.

Harilik konnarohi

Water plantain

The leaves of the water plantain remind us a little of broadleaf plantains and subsequently it has received its latin name after that plant, the first part of it from the Celtic language. However, contrary to broadleaf plantain, the water plantain cannot be used as a natural remedy  -  its juice is poisonous. But its flowers are beautiful, centimetre-wide three-petal lovelies placed on regularly branching stems.

The swan flower, when you see it from a distance, looks quite similar to a potted moth orchid. But its open pink three-petal blooms remind you of insects.

The beauty and delicacy of the swan flower has even been praised in our

folklore: A very long time ago there lived at Lake Peipus a very beautiful swan-necked maiden. She had suitors coming from all parts of the world, young men from even as far as Saaremaa had come wooing. But the maiden sent them all back, as she thought herself still be too young to marry. But then came by sea a big army with proud war lords, who were going to take the maiden with them by force. The maiden asked and received permission to go barefoot into the water to say a final ‘goodbye’ to her home coast. Once she was knee-deep in the water, she

sighed: “Dear Lord, make it so, that I never have to leave this place!”

 From that moment on, the maiden disappeared and there remained only a most lovely pink flower on a long, slim stem as a reminder of a beautiful young girl, who used to live there a long, long time ago. From that time on you can find swan flowers everywhere around Lake Peipus.

We use cookies on our website to support technical features that enhance your user experience.

We also use analytics & advertising services. To opt-out click for more information.