The selenarian landscape of Iceland, which convinced NASA to

June 11, 2011, Vik, Iceland, Photo: Kevin McNeal, Flickr,

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The lunar landscape of Iceland, which convinced NASA to send its astronauts there in 1965 and 1967 to prepare for Apollo missions, is not just a “magnificent wilderness,” as Buzz Aldrin called it. In June and July, lupines bloom on roadsides, lakes and waterfalls, or in vast areas between mountains, the New York Times reports.

These small flowers, in shades of purple, pink and white, hide among the large, green leaves like the fingers of a palm and add a touch of color to the already grandiose landscapes of the volcanic island that visitors rush to immortalize. It is said that Lupinus nootkatensis was first cultivated in the small northern country right at the end of the 19th century, without covering the barren and rocky hills around Reykjavík in a fresh and pleasing sight.

Reintroduced in 1945 by the Icelandic Forest Service from a few seeds and a root knot from Alaska, the plant spread like wildfire in the late 1970s, with the rural exodus, writes dcnews.ro.

“People have planted lupine to stop erosion around cities,” said Throstur Eysteinsson, director of the Icelandic Forest Service.

Rich in nitrogen, the perennial plant serves as an anchor for organic matter and has a lifespan of up to four decades. Today, lupines can be found in every town and village in Iceland.

An “invasive alien species”?

Some critics, biologists and owners of summer cottages who do not want it in their gardens consider the flower to be aggressive, especially threatening native plants, and try to destroy it. The Ministry of the Environment even declared it an “invasive alien species” about ten years ago.

“There is no evidence that lupins reduce biodiversity. There is also no evidence that it caused a decline in other species, as its spread, although widespread, is not very significant, “said Throstur Eysteinsson.

The latest estimate is that lupine covers about 30,000 hectares, or 0.3% of Iceland’s land area.

“It creates land with vegetation and improves the growth of trees in a much cheaper way than, for example, the spreading of chemical fertilizers,” he concludes.

Which means less for the state to spend on maintaining the forest fund. In other words, lupine has become an important ally in the country considered to be the least forested in Europe.