Arboreta come in many shapes and sizes, in their simplest form being just a collection of trees, but today the term is generally used for a botanical garden specialising in woody plants which are among other things used for scientific studies. Iceland still has no such dedicated arboretum although many tree collections exist, maintained by institutions or individuals. Arboreta in other countries can cover hundreds of hectares and support extensive educational and scientific activities. They also play a significant leisure role, for experts and laymen alike who can spend hours or even days viewing the exhibits or simply enjoying walks in peaceful woodlands, often within the confines of a major city.

Since the Treegrowing Club of Iceland was formed in 2004 it has been the dream of many members to establish an arboretum in Iceland, smaller than many of the well-known arboreta abroad, as the range of trees we can choose from is naturally much more limited in our northern climate. Twenty hectares would be fine. Cooperation with the Iceland Forest Service research institution at Mógilsá has been fruitful from the start and an agreement has now been reached on such an allocation at Mógilsá, just north of Reykjavik on the slopes of Mount Esja. Planning and implementation of the Arboretum is now managed by Aðalsteinn Sigurgeirsson the Deputy Director of Iceland Forestry Research, and by club members Sigurður Guðmundsson and Axel Kristinsson who leads the group.

Arboreta are considered more useful when their layout is designed in a logical manner, usually either by grouping by related species, as at Arnold Arboretum in Boston , or by origin of the trees with Tervuren in Belgium being the most well-known example of such methodology.

The management group deliberated for some time on which methodology to use and finally decided to divide the Arboretum into two, one with species grouping and the other with grouping by place of origin. The idea is to do this by making circular walking route (dark red on the plan) which divides the area into an inner ring and an outer ring. The inner ring is mostly old hayfields, which have not been planted yet, which makes it ideal for the division by origin, and the outer ring already has considerable tree coverage which will provide shelter for more sensitive trees. The proposed layout initially allows for 8 regions: South Alaska, Newfoundland, South Patagonia (including Tierra del Fuego), the northern Rockies, Scandinavia (in this instance, mostly West and North Norway), the Alps, the Himalayas and mountain ranges in south-west China (particularly Hengduan). There is sufficient land to allow for more regions at a later date and there will be facilities for the Treegrowing Club at a central location which will also have examples of species that have proven successful in Iceland or that have been adapted to Icelandic circumstances.

The PDF PLAN OF THE ARBORETUM shows the proposed locations for the grouping by families or genera which takes into account prevailing weather conditions, shelter and other factors. The plan shows the initial proposals for layout, which are not set in stone, as the journey to develop an Icelandic arboretum has just begun. Here is a link to a presentation on the arboretum (in Icelandic) from the club’s 2018 AGM.