Nootka Lupins, the tall purple flowers that have become an integral characteristic of Icelandic coastal landscapes, have in recent years greatly expanded their distribution into Central Iceland and the highlands.
“I have seen it bloom at over 900 meters above sea-level, by Gæsavötn, which tells us that it could probably survive, even if it will take some time to spread. It can survive nearly anywhere in the highland tundra,” Þóra Ellen Þórhallsdóttir, botanist at the University of Iceland, told RÚV last week.
Lupins were introduced in 1945 to combat soil erosion, but the plant’s wide distribution has since become somewhat problematic. Due to its hardy nature, the lupin has in many areas monopolized fertile soil, creating a monoculture. This has in turn had negative consequences for the ecosystems of these areas.
Cow parsley, also known as Queen Anne’s lace, is another invasive plant species that has wreaked havoc on sensitive ecosystems in the Icelandic highlands.
According to Sveinn Runólfsson, Director of the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service, cow parsley is in some ways even worse, as it does very little to enrich the soil, and undercuts biodiversity by supplanting other flora, including the lupin.
“We believe that sadly there are still some who are intentionally distributing lupins with seeds or seedlings. But I don’t believe that anyone is disseminating cow parsley, because that is an absolute terror,” said Sveinn to Vísir on Saturday.
He claims that the lupin’s dramatic spread observed over the past few months can be attributed to a late spring. While other plants struggled through a record cold May, the stalwart lupin kept its stride—too its major advantage in the long-run.
Sveinn and his team do not advocate using pesticides against the lupin, but rather recommend cutting and weeding the plant before it starts dispersing its seeds in late July.