Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summertime Wildflowers and Butterflies in Niederlausitz

Here are some photos I took in a nature reserve (in German Naturshutzgebiet) whilst cycling from Spremberg around the Niederlausitz region SE of Berlin.

Here is a peacock butterfly (in German, Tagpfauenauge) sipping on nectar from a common knapweed flower (L. Centaurea nigra), one of its favorites.

The peacock must have though it was in butterfly heaven here, because the grassland was filled with a sea of waving, mauve coloured knapweed blooms (in German, Schwarze Flockenblume).

Also amongst the knapweed, there were an abundance of wild carrot flowers (L. Daucus carota, in German wilde Möhre). In North America these are known as Queen Anne's Lace, either because of some tenuous relationship to Queen Anne of England (of whom if she had brought forth a male heir, there wouldn't have been a replacement German dynasty on the British throne) or her great grandmother Anne of Denmark. It might also be noted that St. Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary) is patron saint of lacemakers. Either way, their domes of white flowers do look pretty lacey.   

There are lots of similar-looking Umbelliferae in the hedge-rows and beside country roads in Summer, but you can immediately tell the wild carrot at this part of the year when it produces a sphere of seeds. Correctly identifying this plant is quite important, because until the seed-head appears you could easily mistake it with the similar-looking deadly hemlock! By the way, yes, the wild carrot is an ancestor of the orange-rooted carrots you get at the greengrocers, but only by way of a lot of cross- and selective- breeding with other carrot species. Though the root is edible, you would have to be on the edge of starvation before you resorted to it for nutrition.

What is most amazing is that this small nature reserve is in the grounds of a coal-fired power station, Kraftwerk Schwarze Pumpe. However, this is no ordinary power-station; it was built to be the World's first CO2 neutral coal-fired power station, and any carbon-dioxide it produces is pressurised, liquefied, and stored back underground in geological formation. Some environmentalists disagree with its green credentials, and think the money should have been spent not on fossil fuels use but on alternative energy technologies. I don't know enough to judge, but the butterflies in its environs are certainly benefiting, as are the local (human) communities employed here.

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