When you think of northern colours, you’re probably thinking in tones of snow and ice. We won’t blame you, but let’s look beyond winter: as the snow melts away in the spring, northern nature soon displays an abundance of beautiful colours. For this article, we’ve picked a few of the plants that have inspired our yarn palette – we feel they deserve more love than they get right now.
Disclaimer: Novita’s yarns are not plant-dyed. The herbs and plants mentioned in this article serve as inspiration-
Willowherb or Fireweed
Finland is covered with forests – nearly 80 procent of Finland’s entire area is forest, which means around 10 acres of forest per citizen. Since we have all this forest, we also cut down trees on a regular basis. And wherever trees are cut down, Willowherb soon grows, covering the felling site in pink. The same goes for burnt land areas, and so Willowherb is known to have colonized burned ground after the bombing of London in World War II, bringing color to an otherwise grim landscape.
Willowherb, or Fireweed, as it is called in the US and Canada, was once used for multiple medical purposes: for migraines, sleep problems, anemia, infections, colds, ulcers, stomach and intestinal problems, pain and swelling, to name a few.
In Alaska, Willowherb honey, syrup and jelly are popular, but we mostly leave it standing. In Finland, Willowherb also goes by the name of “Rogue’s rose”, referring to a rascal husband returning home from his odysseys and, in a last-minute attempt to soothe his wife’s temper, picks up some Willowherb flowers from the roadside.
Willowherb is one of the colours of Novita Venla.
Look around the internet, and you will find all kinds of fascinating uses for Mugwort. A relative of Tarragon, it is used in e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even German cooking (they use it to season goose). In addition, it has been used for various medical and magical purposes.
Mugwort has a distinct green colour with a light grey nuance, and while the colour, featured in Novita Venla, is beautiful, Mugowrt is not held in high regard by Finns nowadays. As far as we know, it is not used in cooking in Finland at all. Mugwort’s only claim to fame in Finland is the fact that it is one of the main sources of hay fever and asthma, making life miserable for allergic persons from mid-July to August.
You’ve probably seem lichen, walked over it, not knowing it was lichen at all. If someone asked, you might say “Oh, you mean that moss?” If that someone was a botanist, he or she would probably burst into a rant, starting with “That is NOT moss!” So let’s set the record straight.
Just like moss, lichen is the stuff that grows on rocks and mountain sides. But that’s just about all they have in common. Mosses are plants. Lichens, by contrast are a complex life form that is a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga. The dominant partner is the fungus, which gives the lichen the majority of its characteristics, from its thallus shape to its fruiting bodies. The alga can be either a green alga or a blue-green alga, otherwise known as cyanobacteria. Many lichens will have both types of algae. So now you know. Never call it moss again.
Most lichen species that grow in Finland are grey, and so we found it only suitable to name our 7 Veljestä light grey yarn after lichen.