General Description / Cultural Significance
Lithuania is an Eastern European country on the Southeast coast of the Baltic Sea, bordered by Latvia, Belarus, and Russia. The country is made up of vast, low-lying plains and clay lakes carved by glacial movement. Sand dunes line the coastline. Though much of Lithuania’s soil is not fertile, the hardy and resilient Rue Flower, Ruta graveolens, grows bountifully throughout the country. Rue was introduced to Lithuania by Catholic missionaries who brought the plant with them during their travels and planted it around monastery gardens in the late Middle Ages. Rue’s vibrant, evergreen leaves grow all year, and its strong fragrance has inspired magical interpretations by Lithuanians. For instance, it is collected for use in protective spells to ward away the “evil eye.” In Lithuania, Rue is donned by young girls who weave its yellow flowers into their hair as a symbol of purity. This is how Rue earns its alternative name, the Herb of Grace. The plant is prized for its medicinal abilities, which include the treatment of arthritis, ulcers, hemorrhages, eczema, and inflammation. Since ancient times, Rue has also been utilized as an antidote for venom, as an insect repellant, and is added as a seasoning in the foods and beverages of Lithuania and around the world. The most frequently mentioned herb in Lithuanian folksongs, the native Rue is Lithuania’s National Flower and National Herb.
Climate Change / Conservation Status
Lithuania is regarded by many scientists as the European country most affected by climate change. Lithuanian crop growers suffered droughts for three years in a row from 2016 to 2019. Extreme dry weather has stolen profits from the country’s farmers and has rendered the forest floors of Lithuania completely dry, highly vulnerable to increasing wildfires. When the rain does come, it comes in raging weather bouts unlike anything the country is used to. Rising sea levels pose additional threats to coastal ecosystems.
Climate change is affecting the seasonal development of Lithuania’s flora and many tree species, such as the Norway Spruce and the Common Ash, are predicted to decline with the current temperature and precipitation trends. Insects are taking advantage of mild winters and droughts, causing infestations that damage trees and forest vegetation. Moreover, climate change is initiating changing flowering patterns. Though there is not yet documentation that Ruta graveolens has been negatively affected, general threats to Lithuania’s environmental health and weather are serious threats to all biodiversity across the country. However, Lithuanians’ long tradition of home gardens, where heritage species that provide herbal preparations and food are cultivated, creates a conservation network that aids in the protection of Rue.
Herb of Grace
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