Welcome to this third edition of Botany News!
- A note from the editor
- Plants grown in northern gardens: Garden Angelica
- Arctic vegetation - Does it occur in Iceland?
- Orchids of Iceland
- Submit your Botany News article!
- The flower box
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A note from the editor
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Plants grown in northern gardens: Garden Angelica
Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a large
perennial herb. The stem is robust and the whole plants
has a strong fragrance. The flowers are greenish white
in compound umbels. In Iceland, this species grows on
sea cliffs and in lush vegetation, as well as
good shelter in the mountains.
Garden Angelica is an edible plant and while growing
wild it is also cultivated as a food plant and for
decoration in gardens. All parts of the plant are used
except the flower heads. The young stems can eaten fresh
or cooked. Fresh leaves are used for salads and the
dried or fresh leaves in tea. The roots and
seed are also used. The plant is also used as a soothing
The related, Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris),
has a mild fragrance. This is a robust plant
with a hollow stem and unlike Garden Angelica its stem
is partly hairy. The flowers are white or pinkish. Wild
Angelica is grown in gardens for decoration, but thrives best in the wild in crevices and woodlands.
are common all over Iceland, they are quite tolerant of
frost and are found in many places, especially on land
that is protected from grazing.
Arctic vegetation - Does it occur in Iceland?
There are two major types of tundra, the arctic and the
alpine. Iceland belongs to the Subarctic with milder
climate and strong oceanic effects. The northern limits
of plant growth occur in the high arctic Tundra, the
dominant vegetation is shrubby or mat-forming
vegetation. We are at the timberline and our vegetation
is sometimes defined as Taiga, while lacking coniferous
boreal forests. The dominant woody species here is
Icelandic birch (Betula pubescens). The only native
conifer being Common Juniper (Juniperus communis). Some
areas in Iceland belong to the Arctic in terms of
vegetation and geological formations. This is true also
of the northernmost parts of Iceland, high montane
vegetation and the interior highlands.
The Tundra encircles the North Pole, its southern edge
bordering the Taiga to the south. Alpine Tundra is found at
high elevation above the altitudes where trees can grow.
The edge between Tundra and Taiga is found in the
circumpolar regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Long, cold winters, and short, occasionally warm, wet
summers are typical of this region. The soil is thin and
nutrient poor. In areas where deciduous species are
common they are mostly low-growing trees or shrubs, such
as birch and willow.
Birch and willow dominate in the Icelandic lowlands
where the vegetation resembles the Taiga more. In the
lowland North, Dwarf Birch (Betula nana) a smaller birch
species is common. Due to the subarctic and oceanic
climate few plants in Iceland show the adaptations to
extreme drought found in many high arctic plants.
Decomposition in the Arctic is very slow due to low
temperatures. The ground is frozen year-round in many
arctic areas and this is known as permafrost.
The winter is long and cold in Iceland. The growing
season is typically two to three months. The long day
length in the summer increases the otherwise short
growing season. The dominant life forms are low shrubs,
sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens, with special
adaptations. Low temperature limits plant recovery after
disturbance. This is true even if arctic and subarctic
plants are adapted to cool summers. Plant growth and
reproduction must be completed during the short
summer. In Iceland, domestic but free-roaming sheep,
imported reindeer, and large flocks of grazing birds
feed on the vegetation.
Orchids of Iceland
Plants belonging to the orchid family have small but
nicely shaped flowers. These plants are perennial and
grow best on humus-rich soils. The seeds are small and
require a special fungus to germinate. In the Tropics
orchids are commonly epiphytes along with bromeliads.
Some orchids are parasitic having little or no
chlorophyll. One of the orchids growing in Iceland,
Coralroot Orchid (Corallorhiza trifida), lacks
In Iceland you find six species of orchids growing on
good calcareous soils. Some of the orchids, e. g., Common
Twayblade (Listeria ovata) have yellowish-green flowers.
Common Twayblade is characterized by two opposite large egg
shaped leaves. Lesser Twayblade (Listeria cordada) also
has two opposite leaves, while being a more delicate
plant than Common Twayblade. Lesser Twayblade carries small
reddish brown flowers.
The Northern Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera hyberborea)
carries a spike of pale green flowers and lanceolate
stem-clasping leaves. Iceland is the only place in
Europe where this species occurs. In Iceland this
species grows on lush heath and thrives best in good
shelter. The Northern Butterfly Orchid grows in
neighbouring Greenland and in diverse habitat in
northern and western parts of North America.
The White Frog Orchid (Pseudorchis albida) is widespread
across Europe from Ireland south to the Balkans, and as
far north as Scandinavia. In Iceland this species grows
in diverse vegetation on heaths, mires and grasslands.
Orchids are associated with fertility in Icelandic
folk-tradition and this is quite true for Heath Spotted
Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) with its characteristic
roots. It grows in woodlands as well as in semi-wet
Submit your Botany News article!
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The articles need be approximately 300-1000 words. If
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The Flower Box
The plan is to organize several botanical tours in
Iceland in the summer of 2006. A first announcement for
the "Customized Botanical Tours" is now available on our
Botany in Iceland. Updated information about
the tours will be published in this section. If you wish
to participate and are planning a trip to Iceland
contact us well in advance.
This year there are several meetings of interest to
botanist and other biologists in Europe:
Wetland Pollutant Dynamics and Control (WETPOL)
World Conference on Ecological Restoration
Sweden SCAPE meeting 2005
British Ecological Society
Entomological Society - Meetings
Interesting meetings outside Europe include:
Systematics in Australia - Where is it Going?
Society for Range Management - 59th Annual Meeting -
Biology: meeting the needs of changing tropical
This section publishes brief announcements about botany
and related issues. Announcements about meetings,
excursions, courses, jobs and other important items are
consider for publication here. Announcements are
generally less than 300 words.
Submit your Botany News announcement!
BOTANY NEWS is published by
Thund, Reykjavik, Iceland
August 7, 2005 -- Botany News, Issue #003
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