During the second day, on 12th July 2012, the participants of the meeting visited following objects: Čekoniškės village where Vilnius’ palms are made from dried plants, herb organic production farm in Panara village and Dzūkija National Park.
Introduction to Vilnius’ Palms in Čekoniškes village (Vilnius region)
The actual palms in the folk traditions are the sprays of the early awakening spring trees and bushes as well as those of the evergreen plants. This custom has been passed down from ancient times, when people believed in the magic power of some plants to revive the earth after winter to give people health, and to protect them from disasters. The palms of Vilnius region are much different from the other regions of Lithuania, as they have been influenced by the many national minorities that live in this area – Russians, Poles, Belarusians’. Vilnius’ Palms which made as bouquets of dried plants did not have any ritual purpose as they were used only as decorative elements. In nowadays with the addition of juniper and willow branches they have become Palm Sunday tokens.
Vilnius’ palm production takes place in fifteen villages of Vilnius region. Palms are created using dried wild plants from meadow and forest. About forty different plants species are used; among them are mosses, lichens, Lycopodium sp., berry greens and many flowering species: timothy spikes (Phleum pretense), St. John’s worth (Hypericum perforatum), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), immortele (Helichrysum arenarium), carline (Carlina vulgaris) and many others. The trade of Lycopodium clavatum and Cetraria islandica is prohibited by CITES Convention.
The plants for palms are gathered during different seasons and are dried until it is time to use them. The making of palms begins the day after Shrove Tuesday and continues till Palm Sunday. This trade involves the entire family, however most often it is women’s work. Formerly people used only natural herbage colour for weaving palms, and only in the beginning of 20th century they also begun to use the aniline dye. The most popular palms are roller shaped but there are wreaths and whip shaped, flat and puffed out. The top of palm is usually composed of bent grasses and reeds. Sometimes are used oat wisps, rye or barley ears. Twisting the palm to the right, different plants are added and arrangements made. Small wreaths, of various sizes are added at different levels. The Vilnius’ palms are considered as Lithuanian folk art heritage.
Herb farm in Panara village
The herb organic production farm in Panara village, Varėna district was founded in 1997 in Full House community and used as work therapy basis for people from social disjuncture. The mission of the Full House community is to ensure that distressed persons, living and working in the farm would reject the addictions and prepare to return to substantive life.
The farm is surrounded by forests of Dzūkija National Park. The main income is derived from ecologic herb production which sold as herb teas. About 40 species of MAPs are cultivated in six hectares of fields. Some of the cultivated species are Echinacea, Alcea rosea, peppermint, lemon thyme, oregano, buckwheat, German chamomile, perilla, nasturtium, mullein, and others. About 60 species of wild plants are gathered from surrounded meadows and forest.
The activity of the farm is oriented towards sustainable use of plant resourses and environmental protection. Employees of the farm which are members of the community and villagers are taught the ecological farming and sustainable harvesting of wild plants from surrounding forest. The idea to develop environmentally friendly activity was basis for creating not only the organic herb farm but also to install new technologies that allow the usage of energy made from renewable sources and contributes to climate change. For drying the herbs was build desiccator which has a 140 sq. m solar panel by heating the air flow. The gas emission decreases by 91 percent when using the solar energy to dry the herbs. On the other hand, the herbs save high healing qualities.
The community providing information about the ecological herb farming, its development and utilization possibilities in business, educated and stimulates social and economic village activities, strengthens motivation the locals to live in countryside. Harmonious and environmentally friendly herb growing technologies secured the life of biologically diverse ecosystem.
Dzūkija National Park
Forests in Lithuania occupy almost 1/3 of the territory. The most wooded is Dzūkija National Park (nearly 90%) where pines dominate (92%). The average age of tree group is 55 years. The Dzūkija National Park was established 1991 to protect, manage and utilise the richest, naturally and culturally, territories of Dainava land. It is the largest protected territory in Lithuania. The park is situated in Lithuania’s south – west from Vilnius 100 km.
Incomes from gathering of mushrooms wild berries and medicinal plants provide an important source for rural dwellers of National Park. The forests of the park give the richest mushroom crop. There are around 300 mushroom species stated in the park territory, though this is not the limit as the exploration of the park’s mushrooms is rather poor. Among edible mushrooms – chanterelles and boletus are the most important for processing.
Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)
In National Park territory wildly distributed medicinal plants, as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Cetraria islandica, Lycopodium clavatum, which trade prohibited by CITES Convention. The harvesting and trading of these species is limited and available only with permits issued by National Park administration. Arnica montana species from Red Data Book is fairly common plant in National Park but strict protected from any use and gathering. The gathering of medical plants is not considered to be dangerous for wild plants sustainability in National Park.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.)
Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica (L.) Ach.)
Groundpine (Lycopodium clavatum L.)
Mountain arnica (Arnica montana L.)
The Čepkeliai State Strict Reserve in National Park territory was established (1975) in order to protect the mire – the country‘s largest raised bog (banks are 83 km long) formed in the watershed of the Katra, Ūla and Grūda Rivers with relict eutrophic lakes and islands, remains of continental dunes and forests surrounding the mire at the edge of a sandy plain (Dainava), as well as the rare flora and fauna. The Čepkeliai wetland complex which protected since 1951 is one of the largest in the Baltic region and distinguished by rare in Europe types of habitats, listed in the EU Habitats Directive. All human activities (except research) and public access (except small groups of visitors) are strictly prohibited on the territory of Čepkeliai.
Drosera rotundifolia L.
Gathering of cranberries in the mire are allowed in only for very short period (15 days) and only for local people with special permissions issued by National Park administration. The National Park administration provided consultations to local dwellers and information to visitors on protected species and sustainable exploitation on wild plant resources.
Vaccinium oxycoccos L.