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Iceland's National Day

“Hæ, hó, jibbí, jei og jibbí, jei – Það er kominn 17. júní!” Happy Independence Day Iceland and Icelanders!

Happy Independence Day Iceland and Icelanders! Iceland, a true land of fire and ice, is the second largest island in the North-Atlantic Ocean is entirely volcanic and composed of basaltic rock and hosts glaciers and geysers, hot springs and waterfalls, basalt pillars and black sand beaches, frigid fjords and fields of lava. Near the Arctic tundra, the summer growing season is just 50 to 60 days, when the sun shines up to 24 hours a day. The striking vegetation of this area, native and imported wildflowers, lichens and fungi, berries and mosses, cut a brilliant swath of summer colour. In an arctic tundra, there is a layer of permanently frozen soil (permafrost) lying 25 to 95 cm underground, which acts as a barrier to tree roots, so no trees can grow above it. It cannot even be penetrated by water, which is why the soil above permafrost gets very soggy in summertime, when bogs, shallow lakes, and marshes form on the land, inviting an explosion of animal life. Insects swarm around the bogs, with millions of migrating birds coming to feed on them!

Jun 17

Arctic Tundra
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Icelandic Tundra
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One of a series of tartans illustrating the natural wonders and flora and fauna of Iceland, this tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, represents the varied colours of the the surprising number of flowering plants that grow low to the ground in the harsh climate of the Arctic Tundra of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.

Around 490 plants grow wild in Iceland, a figure that includes both native plants and imported plants that have colonised the island, including clubmosses, ferns, flowering plants, and trees.

It is estimated that before the arrival of the Viking colonists over 1000-years ago, 40% of Iceland was wooded. Mass deforestation occurred as the early Icelanders needed materials to build their ships, homes and fires to keep them warm.  This process only took approximately 300-years and since then, Iceland has suffered desertification as well as issues with soil erosion, leaving the barren treeless geography that characterises most of Iceland today.

Even so, in recent years, considerable efforts have been made to recultivate woodlands with a significant degree of success.  Over 85 foreign tree species have been introduced to Iceland, the most common and triumphant to flourish include the sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta).

Icelandic National Day (Icelandic: Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, the day of the nation's celebration) is an annual holiday in Iceland which commemorates the foundation of The Republic of Iceland on 17 June 1944. This date also marks the end of Iceland's centuries old ties with Denmark. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.

For a compendium of icelandic flowers, click the landscape.