The Faroese botanist R. Rasmussen writes of the Soft Downy Rose in 1952: “A small shrub, ½ to 1 ½ metre high, with arching glossy red-brown branches. Leave stems, downy with petiolate glandules and fine thorns, reaching the leaves. Stipules, glandular hair on the underside and especially at the edges. 5-7 leaflets, slightly two-toothed with glandular hair on the teeth, greyish or blue greyish, fine hair on the topside, more downy on the underside, rarely hairless on both sides. Sepals, glandular hair on the outside, slightly or not at all laciniate, of the same length as the petals. Petals, bright pink. The hip, almost spherical, shorthaired with stalked glands.
Only found in a few places: Vestmanna, Eiði (Brimnes) and Haldórsvík (flowered in 1944), now extinct in some places but reintroduced in gardens in Tórshavn, Haldórsvík and Miðvágur. Flowers in July.”
Later, when Kjeld Hansen registered plants in 1960-61, published in “Distribution of Vascular Plants in the Faroes,” the rose shrub was not found. This suggests it has become extinct in the wild during the last 50 years. Skógrøkt Landsins (The Faroese Environment Agency), which operates a plant nursery, took seeds from the shrub found in Haldórsvík. Thanks to them, we can still enjoy the sight of the only Faroese rose shrub. Since it does not flower every year, it is a delightful sight to see it bloom.
In ages past small trees and shrubs grew in the Faroes and traces of these can be detected in peat bogs. Today there are hardly any shrubs left but juniper and 4 different willows still grow in the Faroes, the only remnant of the trees that once grew on the islands.
In the Viking era, about 1000 years ago, it was warmer in the Faroes, and it is not unlikely that the Vikings brought the rose to the Faroes with them as a nutritional supplement, as the hip is bursting with vitamin c.
Sheep-keeping over 1500 years has left its traces. The hare, introduced from Norway in 1855, has also left its mark. The fields and heath are heavily used for grazing and this influences the islands’ flora and the environmental balance. A process accentuated in places where artificial fertiliser is used.
The high salt content in the air also influences plant distribution, e.g. the rose does not thrive in salty air.
Climate change has a significant influence on Faroese flora. Some flowers that grow at the edge of the sea thrive as never before, while others diminish and might become extinct. The arctic flowers, growing the high hills, tend to crawl further and further down the mountainsides to avoid the heat.
Some of our most rare plants, e.g. the Blue Bell (Campanula rotundifolia L.), are only found on a few lonely tufts, and the Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula (L.), which once grew in Nólsoy, Streymoy and Suðuroy, is today only found in one place on Streymoy, where about 25 plants survive. So plant life in the Faroes is sensitive, a slight turn of events can tilt them into extinction, never to return.
Only a few people have seen the Early Purple Orchid but most recognise the white, red and purple Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorchis maculata), found across the islands during the summer. The Heath Spotted Orchid is a protected species in Denmark, and summer guests in the Faroes are often speechless at the wonder of seeing such a rare plant in the wild.
It would be good if all Faroese flowers would be preserved. Therefore, it is a great shame that there is no official Faroese policy on the preservation of the natural environment.
Such a policy has no impact on climate change, but it might have preserved the Faroese Soft Downy Rose, so it could be seen elsewhere than in the plant nursery of Skógrøkt Føroya and a few gardens, such as the Faroese trees and shrubs garden in Nólsoy.
Issue Date: 26.02.2014
Printer: LM Group, Canada
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 64 x 23 mm