Malva moschata ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This weed is also cultivated as garden plant and I can see why. It produces lots of spectacular large pink flowers. The flowers have a bit of a musky odour, hence the common name. It likes well-drained fertile soil. Native to Europe, it is naturalized in many other parts of the world.
Rolling Hen and Chicks
Sempervivum globiferum ssp. hirtum ■ Nagykovácsi, Hungary ■ This succulent is native to mountainous regions of SE Europe but it is also popular in gardens and as a house plant. The buds can sometimes detach and roll away from the mother plant to grow separately. This is where the strange common name comes from.
Leopoldia comosa ■ Josvafő, Hungary ■ Native to the Mediterranean region, the bulbs of this plant are considered a delicacy in southern Italy and Greece. They are boiled, pickled and then kept in olive oil.
Geranium robertianum ■ Budakeszi, Hungary ■ Named for 11th century French monk Robert of Molesme, this European geranium has been used in folk medicine as a treatment for toothaches, nosebleeds, mosquito bites, diarrhea, and wound healing.
Geranium sanguineum ■ Budakeszi, Hungary ■ There are many cultivars of this rhizomatous perennial, but it is also quite common in the wild.
Veratrum album ■ Ocsa, Hungary ■ This tall herbaceous perennial is native to Europe and western Asia and is highly toxic, containing over 50 neurotoxic alkaloids. It is speculated that Alexander the Great’s early demise was caused by poisoning from this plant as, just prior to his death, he had symptoms consistent with Veratrum album poisoning.
Gymnadenia conopsea ■ Selcepuszta, Hungary ■ This tall orchid is relatively common in northern and central Europe. It flowers in June and is pollinated almost exclusively by moths.
Neotinea ustulata ■ Budakeszi, Hungary ■ This orchid flowers for only a few weeks in late May and early June in warm spots with relatively dry, well-drained soil. The dark purple unopened flower buds look, from a distance, as if the top of the stalk has been burnt, hence the common name.
Phyteuma orbiculare ■ Kesthely, Hungary ■ This is probably the commonest and most widespread of Europe’s rampion species. It can be found in sunny spots or areas with dappled sunlight such as meadows, forest edges, roadside verges and ditches.
Limodrorum abortivum ■ Kesthely, Hungary ■ This is a very tall orchid native to the Mediterranean Basin and parts of western Asia. It prefers dry, open pine woodland. It produces no leaves, having only a stalk and flowers. Like many orchids, it cannot produce enough nutrients through photosynthesis, so it relies on fungi in the root system for sustenance.
Inula helenium ■ Sümeg, Hungary ■ This member of the daisy family has been used since ancient Roman times as a condiment and as a treatment for digestive disorders. As the genus name suggests, the plant is rich in inulin, a fructose polymer widely used in supplements, pharmaceuticals and processed food. The species name is from Helen of Troy because legend has it that elecampane grew where her tears fell.
St. Stephen's Carnation
Dianthus plumarius regis-stephani ■ Sümeg, Hungary ■ This white subspecies of Garden Pink is native to the Carpathian Basin, where art grows on dry, sandy or rocky soil.
Neotinea tridentata ■ Budakeszi, Hungary ■ This beautiful orchid is native to the Mediterranean regions. Like many orchids, it is not so good at photosynthesis, so it relies on fungi in its root system for nourishment.
Anacamptis palustris ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ Not to be confused with Early Marsh Orchid, which is a different species. This tall orchid has a very wide distribution in Europe and western Asia, ranging as far north as Sweden. It prefers damp habitats.
Early Marsh Orchid
Dactylorhiza incarnata ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ Like the name suggests, this perennial likes wet meadows. It is found throughout Europe and western Asia although it is in decline in some countries because of habitat loss. The Hungarian common name is Flesh-coloured Petal Orchid, which is closer to the latin name than the English common name (incarnata means flesh-coloured). I think this name comes from the color of the unopened buds, as the fully developed flowers are purple.
Silene conica ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ A small annual plant that grows in sandy, well drained soils. It is a bit unique in that it does not produce separate staminate and pistillate flowers, but hermaphroditic flowers that can be either male or female. Also, according to Wikipedia, it has the largest mitochondrial genome ever identified in the plant world.
Alkanna tinctoria ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This member of the borage family is native to the Mediterranean region. When ground up, the roots produce a red powder that can be used as cloth dye (hence the common name), wood stain or even food colouring.
Verbascum phoeniceum ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This is the earliest mullein species to bloom in the spring.
Marasmius oreades ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Most people associate Scotch Bonnet with the hot pepper, so this mushroom has another name. It is also known as the Fairy Ring Mushroom.
Euonymus phellomanus ■ Rétszílás, Hungary ■ On a dull fall day, it is always a pleasure to encounter this shrub with its retina-blasting, candy pink seed pods. Although native to China, a few grow in the wild in Hungary.
Laetiporus sulphureus ■ Rácalmás, Hungary ■ This widespread bracket fungus is sometimes called “Chicken of the Woods” because when young and cooked, it apparently tastes like chicken. This specimen is much too old for eating.
Erigeron annuus ■ Rácalmás, Hungary ■ Originally native to Eastern North America, this annual member of the aster family is very common and widespread in Europe.
Prunus spinosa ■ Vereb, Hungary ■ The Blackthorn, also known as sloe, is a spiny bush in the rose family. The small, plum-like berries are used to make sloe gin.
Aster tripolium ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Even though Hungary is a long way from the sea, the interfluvial plain between the Danube and Tisza Rivers has extensive areas of sandy, saline soils favoured by plants such as sea aster and sea lavender.
Pholiota populnea ■ Rácalmás, Hungary ■ This large, shaggy mushroom is usually found growing out of the ends of poplar logs. It is found throughout the temperate northern hemisphere. It is not poisonous but not supposed to be very good eating.
Datura stramonium ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This annual weed is sometimes ingested by recreational drug users because it contains powerful, hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids. A bit dangerous, however, as the strength of the compounds vary widely from plant to plant, making it easy to accidentally poison yourself.
Nelumbo nucifera ■ Rétszílás, Hungary ■ Although not native to Europe, this aquatic plant is so spectacular I couldn’t resist a photo when I encountered a sizeable patch growing out in the wild. Normally found from India to SE Asia, all parts of the plant are edible and used in various Asian recipes.
Amanita vittadini ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ The Amanita genus contains some of the world’s deadliest mushrooms. It has been estimated that the genus is responsible for 90% of worldwide fatalities from eating poisonous mushrooms. I’m not sure of the status of this particular uncommon species. Some websites claim it is edible, while others say it is poisonous, but it is best to avoid eating all Amanitae.
Aristolochia clematitis ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ Heart-shaped leaves and tubular yellow flowers characterize the deadly poisonous European Birthwort, putative cause of the disease known as Balkan Endemic Nephropathy. It is the only food plant for the Southern Festoon butterfly.
Cannabis ruderalis ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ Hemp is a very common weed in Hungary. There is some debate as to whether C. ruderalis is a species in its own right, or a subspecies of the more familiar C. sativa. It has much less THC content than C. sativa or C. indica, and its small stature means it is not the best for rope fibers.
Ranunculus illyricus ■ Sárszentágota, Hungary ■ This tall, perennial buttercup is found in meadows and woodlands from Central Europe to the Caucasus. It is a protected species in Hungary.
Yellow Flag Iris
Iris pseudacorus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Native to Europe, this wetland species is considered a noxious invasive species in many parts of the world. Just because you are pretty, it doesn’t always mean you get love. :)
Centaurea cyanus ■ Dunatetétlen, Hungary ■ The cornflower is a species of knapweed native to temperate Europe, but has become widely naturalized in other parts of the world. It is also popular as a garden plant. The flowers are edible and sometimes used in salads and teas.
Ginkgo biloba ■ Budaörs, Hungary ■ Easily recognized by its fan-shaped leaves, the ginkgo is an ancient species, with the fossil record going back 270 million years. It has a genome more than three times larger than the human genome and is so unique in the plant kingdom that it is placed in its own Class. In the wild it is restricted to a very small range in southwestern China. Despite being cultivated in many parts of the world, it has never become naturalized anywhere.
Orchis militaris ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This lovely orchid gets its name from the shape of the flowers which resemble a person wearing a helmet. I guess they could have called it motorcyclist orchid except that motorcycles didn’t exist when it was named way back in the 19th century.
Brassica napus ■ Kiskunlacháza, Hungary ■ Early May in Hungary means vast fields of retina-blasting yellow as rapeseed is in full bloom. Aside from the farmer’s field, it is also a common roadside weed in Hungary. It is the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world. The variety grown in North America is known as canola.
Ranunculus trichophyllus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ An aquatic member of the buttercup family, this plant is able to photosynthesize underwater. They generally prefer flowing water, so I was surprised to find this specimen growing in a flooded farm field.
Lepidium draba ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ A rhizomatous perennial that belongs to the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, Hoary Cress is native to SE Europe and Western Asia. It has become naturalized in places like North America and Australia where it is considered an invasive pest.
Common Grape Hyacinth
Muscari neglectum ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ Grape Hyacinth is very common in the wild in Hungary, but is also a popular garden plant.
Bellis perennis ■ Budaörs, Hungary ■ The commonest European daisy, its Latin name means “everlasting beauty”. The plant has astringent properties and for this reason the ancient Romans would soak bandages in daisy juice to bind the wounds of legionnaires wounded in battle.
Vinca minor ■ Budaörs, Hungary ■ Native to central and southern Europe, this periwinkle is naturalized in many other parts of the world. It is also cultivated for gardens because the evergreen, waxy leaves provide nice ground cover. It doesn’t produce a lot of seeds but reproduces primarily by runners along the ground.
Potentilla tabernaemontani ■ Diosd, Hungary ■ Five petals with an indented tip identify the cinquefoils. This species is partial to dry grasslands and rocky slopes and flowers early during the first warm days of spring.
Viola hirta ■ Diosd, Hungary ■ This early flowering violet is found throughout Europe in sunny places with well-drained, chalky soil. As it has no scent whatsoever, it is sometimes pejoratively referred to as dog violet.
Erodium cicutarium ■ Szabadszállás, Hungary ■ This low annual weed gets its common name from the shape of the seed cases, which resemble a stork’s head. The seeds have a long tail that is straight when wet and coiled when dry. The seeds can actually drill themselves into the soil with this coiling motion.
Helianthus tuberosus ■ Szabadszállás, Hungary ■ This showy perennial is neither from Jerusalem, nor an artichoke, but a sunflower native to North America. The edible tubers of the plant are rich in potassium, iron, several vitamins and fructose polymers which gives them a slightly sweet taste. They have been used for food as far back as the 16th century, and hit their peak of popularity in 19th century France. Today the tubers are used mostly for animal feed and as a commercial source of inulin
Humulus lupulus ■ Soponya, Hungary ■ Cultivated on an industrial scale for beer making, hops is common in the wild in Hungary. The plant probably originated in Germany and France, and by the early 17th century had spread to America. Today, the U.S.A. and Germany are the biggest hops producers by a wide margin.
Echinops sphaerocephalus ■ Sárkeresztúr, Hungary ■ It’s not hard to see where the globe thistle gets its common (and scientific) name from. A perennial that likes sunny spots, it is native to Eurasia but has been naturalized on other continents such as North America.
Sanguisorba officinalis ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Burnets are flowering perennials in the rose family and are found in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. They have some medicinal properties including the ability to staunch blood flow. The genus name refers to the plant’s hemostatic properties.
Alcea rosea ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Despite the latin name, this is not a rose but a member of the mallow family (rosea refers to the color of the flowers). It is an ornamental plant native to China that was introduced to Europe hundreds of years ago. A few, like this one, escape the confines of gardens to grow in the wild.
Salvia austriaca ■ Fot, Hungary ■ Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family and is characterized by a special pollination mechanism. When a bug pushes its face into the flower in the search for nectar, a lever mechanism brings the two stamens down on the insect’s back to deposit pollen. Many members of the genus have hairy stems and leaves to reduce water loss.
Galium verum ■ Fot, Hungary ■ One of the more colourful members of the Galium genus, this low perennial is native to Europe and Asia, but has become naturalized in North America, New Zealand and Tasmania. Bedstraws get their common name from the fact that, in previous centuries, they were used to stuff mattresses because they contain aromatic compounds that act as natural flea repellants. This species was also used to curdle milk in the making of cheese.
Senecio vulgaris ■ Rétimajor, Hungary ■ This hardy member of the daisy family likes well-drained soil in sunny spots. It can grow well in poor soils so it is reasonably common on disturbed ground, construction sites and roadsides. It is annual and hermaphroditic, with a single plant having both make and female organs.
Rosa canina ■ Kunpeszer, Hungary ■ In centuries past, parts of this climbing shrub were used to treat dog bites, hence the name. In the wild, the flowers vary from bright pink to white, and every shade in between.
Papaver somniferum ■ Tiszaalpár, Hungary ■ The source of opium, heroin, morphine and codeine, this plant also produces the poppy seeds used in cooking and baking. It is much larger and taller than the red poppy used for Remembrance Day in Britain and North America.
Iris sibirica ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ This perennial grows from rhizomes and, like most irises, prefers very damp soil. It is native to temperate Europe and Asia but has been naturalized in eastern North America. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant.
Gymnadenia conopsea ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ One of the commoner European orchids, the color can vary from very pale to dark purple. The nectar is very deep in the flower so only pollinators with very long tongues, such as hawk-moths, can get to it.
Ophrys scolopax ■ Dabas, Hungary ■ This orchid is found throughout the north Mediterranean basin, and is a protected species in Hungary. It flowers in May and June. The lip of the flower resembles an insect which is thought to encourage bugs to come and pollinate the flower.
Trifolium incarnatum ■ Kiskunlacháza, Hungary ■ Few things look as nice as a dense field of crimson clover in full bloom (despite that, it was not the inspiration for the Tommy James song). With a nutritional profile superior to that of alfalfa, this European native makes great cattle fodder and is also grown commercially for human consumption.
Anacamptis morio ■ Újsolt, Hungary ■ This native of Western Eurasia has a strange name. Ostensibly named for the dark green stripes under the flower petals, in most cases all you can see is intense purple. It likes limestone-rich soil and requires mycorrhizal fungi to survive. This is fungi that live in the root system and help the plant extract nutrients from the soil.
Aesculus hippocastanum ■ Budaörs, Hungary ■ This tree is not a true chestnut but belongs to the soapberry family. It has become so common and widespread in temperate parts of the world that most people don’t know it is native to a very small area of the western Balkans in the extreme southeast corner of Europe.
Orlaya grandiflora ■ Rétimajor, Hungary ■ This hardy annual, a member of the parsley family, is easily identified by its unique flower structure. It is relatively common in the wild, but is also cultivated for garden use.
Ornithogalum umbellatum ■ Soponya, Hungary ■ This perennial member of the lily family is native to southern Europe and North Africa. The bulbs are considered toxic because they contain cardiac-stimulating glycosides. Despite that, they are still used in some homeopathic remedies.
Tilia x europaea. ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Members of the Tilia genus are called lime trees in England (not to be confused with the tree that produces the citrus fruit) but lindens in continental Europe (eg: Berlin’s famous boulevard Unter den Linden - Under the Lindens). They can be easily recognized by the fruit hanging from long, pale, showy bracts. As indicated by the latin name, the Common Linden is a hybrid between Broad-leaved and Small-leaved Lindens.
Scarlet Cup Fungus
Sarcoscypha sp. ■ Tardos, Hungary ■ This colourful fungus grows on decayed wood on the forest floor in Europe, Asia and North America, and usually appears in the cooler months of winter or very early spring. I’m not sure whether this specimen is S. coccinea or S. austriaca.
Dipsacus fullonum ■ Rácalmás, Hungary ■ Native to Eurasia, this plant is widely naturalized in other parts of the world, and cultivated in a form known as Fuller’s Teasle. In the past, the dried heads were used to clean, align and raise the nap of fabrics such as wool, but these days they are used mosty in floral arrangements.
Summer Pheasant's Eye
Adonis aestivalis ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ A beautiful, but deadly plant, Pheasant’s Eye contains cardenolides, a type of steroid that can cause cardiac arrest.
Medicago sativa ■ Szabadszállás, Hungary ■ Known as lucerne outside of North America, this perennial and highly nutritious member of the pea family is primarily used for livestock fodder.
Securigera varia ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ The vetches are tough, hardy legumes. Their extensive, complex roots systems are great for preventing soil erosion, but this also makes it hard to eradicate when it becomes invasive, crowding out other species.
Agrostemma githago ■ Alsónemédi, Hungary ■ Nice looking flower, but the plant is deadly poisonous if ingested. It is partial to sandy soils.
Leucanthemum vulgare ■ Alsónemédi, Hungary ■ Native to Europe and Asia this comon wildflower has become naturalized in other parts of the world, where some consider it a noxious invasive weed.
Dictamnus albus ■ Zánka, Hungary ■ Sometimes called the “burning bush”, this plant emits a volatile oil which, on very hot, windless days forms a vapourous and flammable cloud around the plant. It is found in warm open woodland habitats in southern Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Robinia pseudoacacia ■ Rétimajor, Hungary ■ Native to Eastern North America, this is one of the commoner trees in the Hungarian countryside. Although the Hungarians call it White Acacia, it is not a true acacia, as the specific epithet indicates.
Vicia cracca ■ Hortobágy halastó, Hungary ■ So named because it is widely used as cattle fodder, this vetch, like most legumes, helps enrich the soil via its nitrogen fixing ability.
Yellow Sweet Clover
Melilotus officinalis ■ Hortobágy Halastó, Hungary ■ This common roadside weed is a natural source of warfarin, a powerful anticoagulant widely used for treating strokes.
St. John's Wort
Hypericum perforatum ■ Bácsalmás, Hungary ■ Native to Europe, but widely naturalized in other parts of the world, St. John’s Wort is used as an herbal treatment for depression and a variety of other ailments.