We are just back from a long-delayed trip to Europe, which centered on a combination river boat and biking trip along the Danube River from Germany to Hungary. It was a marvelous trip, organized by Vermont Biking Tours (vbt.com) on Emerald line river boats – I would highly recommend both!
Most of our biking was on an incredible, nicely paved bike path that runs along the Danube for its entire 1700-mile length (we biked parts of a 300-mile stretch.) In addition to the usual sightseeing, I had fun observing the local roadside plants and seeing what I could recognize. And I was astounded by how many species were either the same as US natives or close cousins. Here is the list:
One unusual plant was this – can you identify it? (Hint: look at the leaves.)
According to Picture This app, this plant is Himalyan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), which is native to the Himalayas but it now widespread in Europe, to the point of being invasive. It is an annual so spreads by its seeds, which explode and scatter widely when ripe. Our tour guide, who lives in Austria, told how much of nuisance it was to eradicate this from his own yard. Here’s an entire hillside covered with these plants.
There were other familiar invasives, too. Wild morning glory was everywhere, and I saw a few stands of Japanese knotweed, butterfly bush, and English ivy.
On a much prettier note, I enjoyed the cultivated gardens as much as the roadside plants. Most of the cultivated plants were familiar – begonia, hosta, iris, etc. In Prague, we visited the medieval castle which includes the Royal Gardens. They did a lovely job with beds of annuals in a park-like setting.
Also in Prague we saw this amazing rose garden, in a large park in a hill overlooking the city. There must have been a couple of thousand rose plants here, all well maintained and in good health despite the 90-degree heat.
Probably the most unusual garden we saw was this cemetery, where each gravesite was planted specifically to honor the person and their interests. One plot had a tribute to pets, and another was planted with grapevines!
Looking at plants has definitely added a new way to enjoy traveling. I hope you’ve enjoyed this plant-lover’s tour along the Danube!