Category Archives: Vegetation

Vegetation, plants, flowers

River Beauty

Eyrarrós – River Beauty – Epilobium latifolium

The River Beauty is one of the most beautiful flowers you see. It is now in bloom. It grows on the banks of rivers and is common in the highlands in places where sheep can not get to it.

The River Beauty is the national flower of Greenland and when Icelanders were choosing their National flower it was a strong  candidate.

Happiness reports

Last Friday, Marsh 30

Spring comes and goes. This is not uncommon for the month of April in Iceland. We have had some beautiful sunny days and then we wake up to snow and hail. We should be used to this but we are always amazed when we experience what looks like a battle between winter and spring.

The days are brighter and much longer. The dark winter days have retreated, the sun rises earlier and sets later. We feel optimistic and think everything is possible. No wonder we score high in happiness surveys.

Iceland is now number three on the World Happiness Report, with the Nordic countries Norway and Denmark coming first and second.

In OECD better life index Icelanders score on average higher than people in other OECD countries. Icelanders seem to be more satisfied with their lives. We rate our general satisfaction with life 7.5 on the scale from 0 to 10. This is higher than the OECD average of 6.5. – I wonder whether these surveys are taken during summer or winter.

Fireweed autumn colours

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) in an island in Rivr Ölfusá and Mt Hekla in the background

Autumn colours catch the eye everywhere at this time of year. Red, orange and yellow in adundance.  The bright red here is the autumn colour of the Rosebay Willowherb, more commonly referred to as Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). This beautiful plant is used both for food and medicine. Fireweed builds a thriving plant community by spreading its tiny seeds and with lateral root networks.  In an island in River Ölfusá this is the case and the plant is overrunning other vegetation.

Tree of the year 2015

A ram stands watch
A ram stands watch

Last month the Icelandic Forestry Association announced Tree of the year 2015. This special tree is a rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) that was planted in 1923 in Sandfell in Öræfi, Southeast Iceland.

The Rowan is around 12 metres high
The Rowan is around 12 metres high

It is a special tree for many reasons. The weather conditions in Öræfi are not ideal. Here you get the strongest storms in Iceland. This rowan is very prominent in the scenery, it has seven thick trunks and it stands alone below the mountain Sandfell. The lady who planted the tree got it as a present from a friend.

In the settlement of Iceland around the year 900 the area around Sandfell was claimed by a woman.  She was a widow named Thorgerdur and the first woman to claim land as her own.

Collecting birch seed


The birch (Betula pubescens) is the only tree species that grew natural forests in Iceland before the settlement.  Still today it is an important species in forestry and reforestation. Every year considerable amounts of seed is collected and used to raise plants or sown straight into barren landscapes.


Here is a group of students from the upper secondary school in Selfoss collecting birch seed in Þjórsárdalur, South Iceland. There birch has grown in an area where former there were only barren sands. This birch forest is around 15 years old and has started producing seed.
Continue reading Collecting birch seed

Veiðivötn – Fishing Lakes


Veiðivötn, Fishing Lakes, are a cluster lakes in the Southern Interior. The lakes are renowned for trout fishing. The area is worth visiting for its magnificent scenery and birdlife. Click to see the slideshow.

Wild mushrooms

Lerkisveppur – Larch Bolete – Suillus grevillei

These wild mushrooms, know as Greville’s Bolete or Larch Bolete, are found in forests, near larch trees. We pick them at this time of year, wipe the top and fry them in butter before they go to the freezer.


During winter we use them for soups and sauces. They are mild in flavour but it is worth the while because mushroom hunting is such a nice hobby.

Mushroom hunting in the forest
Mushroom hunting in the forest

The controversial lupin

The Nootka lupin (Lupinus nootkatensis) is very apparent in the Icelandic landscape at this time of year. Lupin seeds were first imported to Iceland in 1945 and used for land reclamation in desert areas all over the country, – with great results.

Alaska luðina – Nootka lupin – Lupinus nootkatensis

The lupin grows in  fields in barren land and creates a fertile soil for other plants. In about 30 to 40 years it starts to give way to other plants and that is now happening in the oldest areas. The soil has proved good for forestry.

Sólheimasandur, South Iceland

The lupin has from the start been controversial.  Some Icelanders are against land reclamation and view this plant as an alien intruder. Others are concerned because the lupin might eliminate other fragile vegetation such as heather.

Birch planted in old Lupin field

Yet another group welcomes this plant and its beautiful blue fields of flowers in the Icelandic landscape.

Blue colours are dominant but others exist
Blue colours are dominant but others exist

In Iceland the tradition has been to drive flocks of sheep into the interior where they are allowed to graze the whole summer long.  The result of this has been massive land deterioration and erosion. The lupin only grows in areas that are protected against sheep grazing because the sheep love lupin. Therefore there is no need for concern in areas where sheep graze. The bottom line is that the lupin is effective if the aim is to reclaim land and eliminate erosion.