this ninth edition of Botany News!
note from the editor
Tropical forests - past, present and future
A special announcement to Icelandic readers
from the editor
Greetings and welcome back to Botany News and a special welcome to
subscribers. Summer is here again, bringing sunshine and warmth
to Iceland. This issue of Botany News contains topics of interest to
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the rest of the summer and reading
Vetches (Vicia species) are
legumes, with many leaflets and climbing with soft tendrils.
Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) is a common legume in Iceland
as well as all over Europe. This species has small downy leaves,
deep purple flowers in large clusters, and forms brown pods later in
the season. Tufted Vetch grows on dry terrain, such as sandy soils,
grassy slopes and is spreading as a roadside weed in Iceland. A
related legume, the Bush Vetch (V. sepium), resembles the
Tufted vetch, and boasts red or violet flowers in midsummer
and black pods later in the season.
Three species of Peas grow wild in Iceland. These plants are
similiar to the Vetches in many respects, while Peas have fewer
leaflets and more angled and winged stems. The Meadow
Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) is rare in Iceland where it
thrives on heaths and in forests. However, this species has a
wide distribution on three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Meadow Vetchling has delicate stems and small clusters of yellow
flowers, appearing in July. The black pods form later if the
flowers are successfully fertilised by bees. Marsh Pea (L.
palustris) has greenish-blue
leaves and blue or purple
Additionally, this species seldom flowers and is rare in Iceland.
Sea Pea (L. japonicus) as its name incates often
banks near the coast, where it is a rapid colonizer of open areas.
jewel in the flora of Iceland is the low growing Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis
vulneraria), its present distribution is mostly limited to two
locations in southwestern and northeastern Iceland. This delicate
plant has flaming yellow flowers heads. However, you will find
this species in city of Reykjavik and the neighbouring towns.
Kidney weed is spreading
also in the country due to increased protection of land from sheep
grazing and along the roads of seaside and fishing communites.
Most legumes are intolerant of grazing, while thriving on protected
land where they play a role in improving the soils. White Clover (Trifolium
repens) is a common
pasture species in Iceland and quite tolerant of grazing, while
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is rare here. In Iceland
native legumes are increasingly used for improving and
poor soils. An imported plant Nootka Lupine (Lupinus
originating in Alaska
is much used for land restoration. Nootka Lupine is spreading
rapidly in many parts of Iceland. This species is an effective binder of
nitrogen as well as several other nutrients. However, in some parts
of the country it is considered a serious weed, overtaking other
vegetation and should only be sown in areas where it is unlikely to
invade healthy native vegetation.
the common name for the robust perennial monocot Zingiber
officinale. The plant carries fragrant flowers and belongs to
the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Originating in southern
Ginger is cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical Asia,
especially India. Varieties of Ginger are also grown on other
continents, such as Africa and in Neotropical regions of South
America. Ginger was brought to Europe by the Romans, and later
reintroduced by Marco Polo. The ginger products differ among regions,
there are two major varieties, the Jamaician and Indian. Japanese
Ginger (Z. mioga) is a related species and is used in salads,
as pickles in
sushi and an ingredient of tempura dishes.
gingerroot consumed by man is in fact a knotted, thick, pale
rhizome, the rhizomes being the Ginger plants tuberous shoots.
Rhizomes are the plant’s primary form of spread, while fruit-eating
birds may disperse the seeds. The large, fleshy rhizome, the so called gingerroot contains
volatile oils and pungent phenolic compounds. Today, gingerroot is
still widely used as a digestive aid, to reduce nausea and
occasionally more serious conditions. While fresh Ginger is more
refreshing, dried Ginger is sold as a powder and maintains the
pungent taste of fresh gingerroot. Fresh Ginger is now available in
food stores all over the world and like many other
spices is best consumed fresh. Ginger is a nice addition to
many western as well as oriental dishes, and a refreshing tea may be
prepared from slices of gingerroot.
Tropical forests - past, present and future
The world's tropical forests occur between the Tropics of Cancer and
Capricorn, in areas of high temperatures, plenty of sunshine and
abundant rainfall. Tropical forests are diverse; typically the
forests are dense and layered, with openings for the establishment
of woody plants, palms, ferns and occasionally herbs. The giant
trunks and strong branches often carry a heavy epiphyte load of
orchids and bromeliads. Lianas climb and wind their way up the tree
trunk and into the openings in the high canopy. Many tropical
plants, such as
members of the genus
flower in the dry season.
While, nutrient turnover rates are
typically high in the forests the soils remain rather nutrient
poor. The rainforest food webs are often complex with the rich
flora providing an abundance of diverse plant material ranging from
nutritious seeds and fruit to juicy nectar and sap sources for
countless insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Currently, this
diversity is threatened by man as the forests are much too often
cleared on a destructively large scale. This is one of the major
reasons why the loss of tropical forests is among the greatest
environmental threats facing humanity.
Arnthorsdottir, S. 2008. On the
growth of lianas in a rainforests. Iceland Forestry,
2: 30-45 (in
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summertime is a wonderful time to visit Iceland and explore its
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one unique flora and fauna. Why not consider a going on a
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is published by Thund, Reykjavik, Iceland
14, 2008 -- Botany News, Issue #009