2018: Plants of the year
Every year, German horticultural associations turn the spotlight on specific plants and fungi that deserve further attention. Here are the select few for 2018 — and without going into spoilers, some taste pretty good.
Chestnuts have been a popular food for centuries. Due to its high starch content — 43 percent — chestnuts were even considered the "bread of the poor" in Southern Europe for a long time. In Germany, chestnut grows are predominantly found in the mild wine-growing areas along the Rhine River. They have been cultivated there since Roman times, and can reach up to 30 meters (100 feet) in height.
The Loki Schmidt Foundation has chosen the blue-purple longleaf speedwell as its flower of the year. It mainly grows in natural river meadows along the banks of large rivers, one of Europe's most precarious ecosystems. The wild plant is endangered in almost all of Germany, and has already been wiped out in the eastern state of Thuringia. Insects love the flowers of this plant.
Daylilies are popular among garden enthusiasts, says the Association of Perennial Gardeners. For that reason, they chose the Hemerocallis as the perennial of the year. Its flowers bloom in a variety of colors, are ruffled or wavy, and can be shaped likes stars or spiders, to name just a few varieties. A daylily flower is also edible. Who could resist?
At home in the wild
It's not a plant, but it's still extraordinary. The German Society for Mycology has honored the field mushroom, the wild relative of the common white mushroom, with the title of mushroom of the year. It grows in soil, compost, leaf and needle mulch. Due to intensive farming and overuse of fertilizers, this humble mushroom is at risk of losing its habitat.
The rutabaga is a traditional vegetable, but will also be part of our future, according to the Association for the Conservation of Crop Diversity (VEN). By naming it the vegetable of 2018, they wanted to "encourage people to increase their consumption" and "to share the knowledge of this classic vegetable with the world." The root vegetable is a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. Enjoy!
Ginger is the healing plant of 2018. It alleviates nausea and vomiting and prevents travel sickness, according to the Association for the Promotion of Natural Healing. The root also helps ease the digestive process and prevents a feeling of fullness after eating. After a meal of sweet chestnuts, field mushrooms and rutabaga, maybe a ginger tea is in order?
Horehound was once among the most popular medicinal plants in Europe. Today, it's almost unknown. This must change, say researchers from the Institute of the History of Medicine at the University of Würzburg. One of the active compounds found in horehound — marrubiin — helps with respiratory and digestive problems, and is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Beautiful, yet endangered
The western marsh orchid, also known as the broad-leaved marsh orchid, has been chosen to represent the flower in 2018 by the Native Orchids group. It only grows on intact, acidic and nutrient-poor marsh areas — now a rarity in Germany. The orchid flowering period is at its peak in June, and colors range from light red to pink.
Threatened with habitat destruction
The common apple-moss grows in dense cushions on mineral-rich rocks in shady locations. The Bryological and Lichenological Society for Central Europe chose it as the moss of the year, because it is now threatened with extinction in some German states. The reason: road and housing construction have destroyed its habitat.
The seeds of the castor bean, also known as the castor oil plant, are highly toxic. A municipal botanical garden in Hamburg has chosen the shrub as the poisonous plant of the year. The ornamental plant grows in many parks and gardens. The oil from its seeds causes high fever, vomiting and circulatory collapse. Untreated, death can occur in about 48 hours.