8.08.2017

A flora of western Norway

"So quickly, without a moment's warning, does the miraculous swerve and point to us, demanding that we be its willing servant."             - Mary Oliver

Top of the waterfall at Kjeasen, end of the Eidfjord

After a combination of driving and hiking, we made it to an improbable cluster of stone dwellings set on a ledge 1,800 feet above sea level. Still a working farm, we found vegetables, grains, animals - and a range of plants common to the places that have long known humans. In the surrounding forests, where glacial runoff feeds an endless stream of water during the warmer months, we also found bogs with more rare, wonderful plants.

Lupinus perennis, common lupine
Impatiens noli-tangere, touch-me-not

In late July, the waters of the fjord - far below us, a dizzying drop - are fully opaque, a light turquoise color. We had been out on the water in small boats before climbing to our vantage point, and had run our hands through it. It was so cold! I cupped some of it and brought it to my lips, expecting the familiar saltiness of the sea (the fjords are, after all, fingers of the Atlantic ocean reaching over 100 miles inland), but the water tasted soft, and sweet.




Rosa rugosa


Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort


Alchemilla vulgaris, lady's mantle


Valeriana officinalis, valerian

A mess of nettle and cleavers (Urtica dioica and Galium aparine)



The milky turquoise whiteness comes from the glaciers. The fresh water runoff - more than six feet of it in the summer - floats, frigid, over the warm, dense salty sea below. The white comes from anorthosite, a bright mineral deposit that's mostly feldspar, found only here in Scandinavia and in parts of Newfoundland (once the same land mass). The glacier, grinding boulders beneath its huge weight, powders it into a fine flowing dust, and the melt waters wash it away.

Geranium robertianum, herb Robert

Rhodiola rosea, rose-root
Corydalis lutea, fumewort

Alchemilla alpina

But the anorthosite deposits may have a deeper, fantastic origin: long ago, when the Earth was very young, a gigantic rock covered almost entirely in this mineral slammed into her, and the moon (who still glows white with anorthosite) was born. Perhaps the rocks that are here are part of a smudge, a scar left over from that early, seminal encounter.


Pinguicula vulgaris, butterwort (purple flower on the left)

Eriophorum angustifolium, swamp cotton-grass

Melampyrum sylvaticum, cow-wheat

Dactylorhiza maculata, bog orchid




But it's not a scar: it's turquoise water and it's sweet and now I'm standing almost two thousand feet above it, at the edge of this waterfall that's pushing moondust past my feet. And it's then I become fully aware of the plants around me. They are suffused with an inner light, like a glow that makes them seem to stand much taller than the eye reports.

Achillea millefolium, yarrow

Hypericum perforatum, St. John's Wort

Angelica archangelica

Galium boreale, bedstraw
And there is yarrow, and angelica, St. John's, clover, bedstraw, daisies and dead-nettle, thistles and the lanky speedwells, rising tall and bright, aware of me as much as I am of them. A quick nod, the gratitude for the time we took to get to know each other, then they return to bending in the wind, and I begin the climb back down.


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