Welcome to this eighth edition of Botany News!
A note from the editor
The flora of Iceland: ancient or recent?
Speaking of chili peppers
By the seaside
The Papyrus Plant
The flower box
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· A note from the editor
Happy Halloween! Welcome again to Botany News and a special welcome to new subscribers. Autumn is here again, bringing wind and rain to Iceland.
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· The flora of Iceland: ancient or recent?
Iceland is situated in the North Atlantic between the continents of Europe and North America. Greenland is the nearest country, the nearest point being 300 km away. While, the coasts of Norway 1000km, Scotland 800 m, and Ireland are considerably further away. Opinions differ on the origin of the flora and how the plants arrived here. Some species of plants were likely carried across the ocean by birds while others drifted by ocean currents or were carried here by high winds. There is some controversy over how many plants species re-established from ice-free mountain peaks, nunataks, after the ice age.
However, plants are also thought to have colonized Iceland after the ice age, some perhaps with the settlers of Iceland and transport to the country during the last millennium.
The composition of the Icelandic flora is similar to the Scandinavian flora. However, there are fewer species here and some plants here originate in North America. In the future more plant species are predicted to colonize Iceland and to be carried here by humans and natural forces.
· Speaking of chili peppers!
Chili peppers, peppers seeds and ground chili are popular spices around the world.
The many varieties of chili peppers differ in shape, colour, flavour, and pungency.
Each type adding its unique flavour and aroma to steaks, stews, soups and sauces, making the red-hot chili peppers an important item on your spice shelf. The most famous dish is chili con carne.
The chili pepper is the fruit of one of a number of species in the genus
Capsicum, belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). The nightshade family contains many well-known food plants such as the closely related bell peppers and the more distantly related tomatoes and potatoes.
Chili peppers and their various cultivars originate in South and Central America and are cultivated around the world as spices, vegetables and healing plants. Chili peppers and their products have several medicinal functions as decongestants and pain killers, they are rich source of vitamin C and have antibacterial properties. Chili is also used in pepper sprays and organic pesticides!
By the seaside
Near the coast in Iceland there is unique vegetation, including maritime plants as well as other plants associated with diverse sandy habitats, lava fields and highland deserts. Common plants on sandy beaches include the succulent Sea Sandwort (Honckenya peploides), the blue-green Oyster Plant (Mertensia martima), Orache (Atriplex spp.) and Sea Rocket (Cakile arctica). Porous, sandy and volcanic soils near the coast are home to the purple-flowered legume Tufted Weed (Vicia cracca), with fine tendrils, weeds such Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima) and daisy-like Scentless Mayweed (Matricaria maritima), the Creeping Silver-weed (Argentina anserina)
and the medicinal plant Common Scurvy (Cochlearia officinalis),
used in the past by humans as a source of vitamin C. Inland from the shore you often find stretches of Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum). The berries are enjoyed as a topping on skyr, Iceland’s traditional and healthy yogurt.
In the spring and summer you may find the nesting colonies of the beautiful Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). In the autumn you will see the occasional Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the thick-billed Fulmar (Fulmarius glacialis)
gliding above the sea cliffs. A significant part of the world population of
Fulmars breeds in Iceland.
While cliff-dwelling birds include the Puffin (Fratercula arctica)
and the sturdy Razorbill (Alca torda). The guano from the birds benefits the coastal vegetation, that often remains green well into the autumn especially along the south coast.
· The Papyrus Plant
(Cyperus papyrus) is a tall robust plant in the sedge family (Cyperaceae). The Papyrus Plant is usually rooted but sometimes floating and forming large mats. The plant orginates in Africa, while its current distribution extends to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. The Papyrus Plant was used for papyrus production in ancient Egypt. Papyrus which in some ways resembles paper was made by slicing the plant stems, softening the paper material in water, pressing and drying the material to create paper scrolls for writing and larger sheets for painting.
Papyrus was invented 4000 B. C. and was very important for the Egyptians, who also exported this product to other nations. The Chinese invented methods for producing modern paper four thousand years later.
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· The flower box
Botany News welcomes letters and links from persons working on all areas of botany and ecology. Check out
meetings on diverse botanical topics and an interesting
ecological summit meeting in China and a meeting on environmental education in
Durban, South Africa. Botany News welcomes input from persons working for the environment, biodiversity and conservation around the world. Please, feel free to suggest new links to interesting botanical web pages for the next Flower Box section.
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BOTANY NEWS is published by Thund, Reykjavik, Iceland
October 29, 2006 -- Botany News, Issue #008