Iceland’s native forests are primarily composed of downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some rowan (Sorbus acuparia). The aspen (Populus tremula) is also found in Iceland, but is extremely rare and the shrubby tea-leaved willow (Salix phylicifolia) can sometimes get tall enough to be counted as a tree.
Beyond these species, the Iceland Forestry Service has experimented with a number of species from overseas, as well as planting more birch, and plantations of trees are now maturing. We have wandered through a few forested ares and we were privileged to meet Throstur Eysteinsson (division chief of the forestry service) who wrote this excellent description of forestry in a treeless land.
Today David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Earth Sciences, and myself were at Þingvellir in south-western Iceland. In 930, the Norwegian settlers established a parliament at this site and now it is a stunning National Park. The area is full of faults and fissures as the North American and Eurasian plates pull away from each other by up to 18mm per year. We were lucky with the weather today and the autumn colours were looking wonderful in the sunshine.