Suomen Luonto
English summaries 6/2000

Swallows do a summer make
By Antti Halkka

Pages 4—9

The swallow is a summer resident of barns and stables which usually arrives here at the end of April or beginning of May, after a long flight from central or southern Africa. There is no need to kill or catch flies in a cow shed, as the swallows will do that for you, says the knowing farmer.

In 1997, EURING launched a project for the purpose of ringing swallows in European countries with the express aim of obtaining some basic information about the species. Thus, in 1999, more than 24,000 swallows were ringed. Finnish forester Pekka Pouttu alone ringed around 3000 young birds. The large number ringed and recorded yielded some interesting results; one of Pouttu’s ringed birds was killed in the Congo. Ringing also revealed that swallows tend to keep to the place of their birth. Many young swallows return to the same barn to breed and catch flies. Farmers have exhibited a very positive attitude towards the swallow project, which has thus far also constituted an excellent public relations campaign for nature conservationists and ornithologists. As to the swallows, it is important for cattle farming to develop in a way that takes the birds’ special needs into account.

The dandelion — a useful plant without equal
By Erkki Makkonen

Pages 16—17

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale s.l.) is the commonest flowering plant of Finland’s settled areas. For a few weeks in May, or June in the north, Finnish meadows and roadsides shine bright yellow. However, there are many kinds of dandelions; in Finland there are a total of 65 original species and over 400 “weed dandelion” species, which have presumably spread here along with agriculture.

The dandelion is a pioneer species, one of the first plants to encroach on exposed areas. Thanks for this must go to its seeds, which are borne on the wind and may be carried for a long distance from their point of origin. Dandelions can also easily propagate themselves from sections of roots, for which reason this stubborn weed is difficult to eliminate. Finns have around a score of names for dandelions. Many of them refer to its golden yellow colour, the appearance of ripening heads, or the white latex that flows out of cut stems.

Dandelions are eaten by both animals and people. Their leaves contain three times as much nutrients as cultivated lettuce (another composite), with a profusion of Vitamins A, B, C and D, calcium and iron. All parts of the plant can be eaten. The leaves are suitable for salads, soups and stews, the flowers and buds for salads, mead, beer and wine. Dandelion roots contain up to 25 % inulin starch and are therefore ideal for people who have to avoid potato starch and sugar. Plants have been collected wild and nowadays dandelions are even cultivated as food in various parts of Europe.

The dandelion is an extremely important medicinal plant. At one time, it was believed to provide a cure for a broad array of different illnesses. Nowadays we know that the glycosides, apigenin and luteolin in the leaves increase urine excretion. It is also believed that substances present in dandelion roots and flower stems have a positive effect on e.g. the liver. Dandelions have been used in various ways in cosmetology, as well as for making magic and predicting the future. A beneficial plant without equal is the common dandelion!

No room in the arc-hipelago
By Mikko Niskasaari

Pages 18—20

Landing and spending a night on a sea shore are permitted under Finland’s "Everyman’s Rights" law. No permission from the landowner is necessary for anyone. But if you head west from Helsinki by boat, finding a shore on which to bed down for the night is no longer easy. The problem is that the constitutional right to beach boats and camp does not extend to the vicinity of houses - and nowadays almost every shore in the archipelago has a summer house standing on it. Where there are no summer houses as yet, there soon will be, as local authorities are busily drafting plans to enable leisure homes to be constructed in their municipality.

Almost the only free shores left are those located in protected areas or in Ministry of Defence territory. Landing in such places is forbidden. In the archipelago there are also fine islands and shores reserved for recreational purposes, but these are almost without exception chock full of holidaymakers. Those seeking the peace of the wilds are unlikely to feel comfortable at a location that is full of tents and boats and where, especially in the evening, there is a lot of unwelcome noise and activity.

If the shore plans are approved as intended by local authorities, landing is going to be even more of a problem for boaters. In this case, visitors will be forced to exploit their Everyman’s Rights to the full. The law only forbids strangers to encroach on a house yard or garden without an invitation, so that mooring a craft, say, 50 metres from the nearest summer house is perfectly legal. How pleasant this is, is another thing entirely.

Threatened life style — the Finnish small-holder
By Ritva Kupari

Pages 28—32

The farmer family Toikka of southeastern Finland is in difficulties, thanks to the EU’s and Finland’s bureaucracy and official objectives. Their land covers 22 hectares and they have 15 milking cows, in addition to 17 calves, heifers and bulls. The cows are of the original Finnish breed. Most of them are of the Lappish strain, with a sprinkling of Western Finnish individuals. The small-holding also possesses a Finnish horse and some of the original Finnish breed of chickens.

In the opinion of the small-holders far too much time is taken up attending to the EU’s bureaucratic needs, which is much too inflexible. EU rules have in fact been drawn up for central European farms and as such they are poorly applicable to Finnish farms of this sort. The main aim is to increase the size and efficiency of farms; in other words, politicians want to turn a life style into a production plant. The standard of living rises but the quality of life decreases.

Walking through Finland 1.
By Markus Sirkka

Pages 34—37

In the 1999 summer, Nature guide (an official title) Markus Sirkka walked right through Finland, from Hamina in the south to Utsjoki in the far north. He made use of waymarked hiking routes and trails and one aim of the trip was to elucidate the condition of the country’s network of official routes. The first stage of the trip began on 17th May in Hamina and ended on 15th June in Hiidenportti National Park. By and large both the routes and the services offered were satisfactory; people were friendly and the scenery was lovely — apart from the ugly clearcuts apparent on every side.

Häntälä’s treasure: the clouded apollo
By Matti Torkkomäki

Pages 38—39

As recently ago as the 1930s, the clouded apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne) was found in many places in Uusimaa and Southwestern Finland. Nowadays, there are only a few localities where the butterfly flies in large numbers. These lie in the Åland islands, in the neighbourhood of Rauma, and at Häntälä, in Somero. The largest population of all seems to be the one in Häntälä, estimated in the summer of 1999 as comprising at least 5000 individuals.

No-one knows just why the clouded apollo has declined so drastically. Its larva eats solid-tubered corydalis (Corydalis solida), which continues to grow profusely locally in both Uusimaa and Southwestern Finland. It is believed that the largest colonies of corydalis in Finland are those located in Häntälä, where they cover hundreds of hectares.

Entomologists mapped the vegetation within the range of the clouded apollo and marked the adult butterflies using the capture/recapture method to estimate the size of the population. These studies showed that some of the insects only moved over a distance of a few hundred metres during their flight period. In contrast, a few individuals covered a distance of a few kilometres, enabling the population to crossbreed with members of neighbouring populations.