A bounty of blossoms

The ‘land of fire and ice’ doesn’t sound particularly rosy, perhaps, but there are few more lovely sights than an Icelandic meadow or valley in spring and summer. The volcanic soil, the round-the-clock daylight, and the regular rain make for a landscape of lush green, studded with delicate flowers. People’s gardens at home are often more of a riot of colour than their Subarctic location would seem to suggest.

Here is a small selection of some of the flowers you might see while visiting the Westfjords of Iceland:

Alaskan lupine

While the endless fields of purple are impossible to miss, fact of the matter is that the Alaskan (or Nootka) lupine is not a native of the region. It was brought in from 1945 to improve the soil quality, up its nitrogen quotient and to help anchor other species given that soil erosion has been a problem. What happened next is not what anyone expected. The lupine spread like wildfire much to the annoyance of the locals who view it as an invasive entity that tends to crowd out the pretty local flowers. On a positive note, it is at least pretty (at least to the eyes of visitors) and it is good for the soil.

Forget me not

The gleym-mér-ey, to give it its Icelandic name, is a beautiful small blue flower symbolic of romance that young lovers traditionally used to stick onto their clothing. Matters are helped by the fact that the flower’s hooked petals help them stick to woolen garments. Through this tradition, humans became a pollinator for these perennial flowers which are today common in Icelandic gardens.

Arctic thyme

Also known as mother of thyme, this is a low-growing plant compatible with barren, gravely soil and dry heathlands in Iceland. Apart from its lovely pink-purple appearance and distinct aroma the thyme is also used as a tea and to season food.


These cheerful yellow flowers grow like wildfire all over Iceland, but they look just so cheerful and pretty that it’s hard to begrudge them. Natives of Eurasia and North America, they grow particularly well in Iceland, reaching heights seldom seen elsewhere. Adding to their reputation as a nutritious food source is the delicious recent recipe for dandelion coffee conjured up by the celebrated raw food chef Solla Eiríksdóttir. Made of dandelion root, the latte is flavored with vanilla and almond.

Mountain avens

Called holtasóley in Icelandic, this pretty white bloom was voted the National Flower of Iceland back in 2004. It lives in all regions of Iceland along side mountain slopes or in moorlands. Centuries before becoming the national flower, it had a long history as a medicinal herb for its astringent and anti-inflammatory effects. Ptarmigan like to eat it during the winter months. The leaves were also dried and used as a substitute for tobacco and tea during the (regular) lean times.


The harebell, or Scottish bluebell, does well in Iceland too. Its Icelandic name is bláklukka, which simply means bluebell. Unlike other members of th bluebell family, the harebell has small flowers and hairly calyx. While this flower can grow in all sorts of soils, it blooms best in dry open spaces.

Take a look in person

If you want to make some time for flowers while in the Westfjords (and why wouldn’t you?), you could do worse than visiting the small but charming Skrúður botanical garden in Dýrafjörður fjord. This garden, established in 1909, was restored in 1992 by a group of nature lovers and restored to its rightful owner, namely the Ministry of Education. The Ministry, in turn, handed it over to Ísafjarðarbær municipality to look after.

While you’re at it, check out the also small but charming public gardens in the centre of the towns of Bolungarvík and Ísafjörður—the latter of which has really upped its public gardening game in recent years.

Ísafjörður’s Tungudalur valley is a spectacle of natural beauty in summer and also has a public garden—but for wild flowers and natural beauty, it’s really a case of pick a fjord and explore!

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