Ukrainian Flora and Fauna Come Alive with Myth
Christened with the moniker, “a land of golden wheat”, Ukraine is undoubtedly one of the most fertile agricultural regions of Europe. With over 30,000 species of plant life, natural vegetation covers one third of the country, and nearly 45,000 species of wildlife roam the geography of Ukraine, as well. Elk, bear, wild boar, and wolves inhabit the dense forests. The coastal region of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov is a birdwatchers paradise with herons, pelicans, gulls, and martins populating the craggy coastal cliffs. Yet, physical variety is only part of Ukraine’s flora and fauna story.
Imbued with ancient symbolism, Ukraine’s rich natural landscape is a feast for the soul as well as the eyes. Tangled forests of linden and snowball trees are legendary in the hearts of minds of Ukrainian elders for their curative powers. Oak trees personify power and endurance. The pine embodies vitality. The willow, believed to be the original tree of life by the ancient Ukrainian pagans, ushers in the rite of spring. The secret meaning of flowers is one that any Ukrainian bride knows intimately as the coronet headpiece is woven with scent and tradition. Periwinkle marks the presence of eternal and faithful love. Yarrow predicts strength and vigour. Green shoots of garlic wish good health. The fiery guelder rose represents the sun, fire, and the perpetuity of life.
Animals too, have their own magical stories. The import of the stag, a symbol of leadership, victory, joy, and masculinity, dates back thousands of years. Viewed by some Ukrainians as the forest’s guardian spirit, the bear emboldens cultural imagery with bravery and wisdom. Wolves denote loyalty. Talismanic belief suggests that a wolf’s teeth, if given as amulets to both children and adults, prevent toothaches. Rabbits take on a much more humble symbolism as a creature aptly listening to the lessons nature provides.
By honouring their natural world with symbolism, Ukrainians display their precious corner of the earth for all to see. Whether one is an intrepid traveler to the Ukrainian coastal regions and the magnificent sweeping steppe, or one is an armchair nature lover, Ukraine’s flora and fauna are a beauty to behold.