Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Mertensia maritima (L.) Gray var. tenella Th. Fr.

English: Sea-Lungwort, seaside bluebells, oyster leaf,

French: Mertensie maritime, saiguine de mer,

Inuktitut: Siurap uqaujangit.

Boraginaceae, Lungwort family.

Published in Öfvers. Förh. Kongl. Svenska Vetensk.-Akad. 26, 2: 127. 1870.

Type: Described from Svalbard.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 3–30 cm high; perennial herbs. Taproot present (below the caudex, CAN 390591). Ground level or underground stems vertical. Horizontal stems at ground level, branching extensively to shape plant habit as mats. Caudex present (to 20 mm in diameter). Aerial stems decumbent (and spreading). Leaves distributed along the stems; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Petioles present, or absent (near the inflorescence); 0–40 mm long (basal leaves with conspicuously long petioles); winged; flat; glabrous. Leaf blade bases attenuate (sometimes appearing petiolate, but blade lamina is continuous and interpreted as attenuate). Leaves not grass-like. Blades 15–35(–65) mm long (longer blades often have etiolated petiole-like bases), 4–12(–18) mm wide, spreading or divaricate, straight, ovate or obovate or spatulate, flat, veins pinnate or appearing single-veined. Blade adaxial surface glaucous (bluish green), with sessile glands, glabrous (but punctate with salt glands particularly towards the tips of the larger leaves). Blade abaxial surface glaucous, without sessile glands or glandular hairs, glabrous. Blade margins entire; apices obtuse, or rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant; with leaves. Inflorescences corymbose; diffuse (open, spreading). Pedicels present; glabrous. Flowers per inflorescence (2–)4–12(–16); small. Sepals conventional; 5; free (for most of their length), or fused (at the base); 1–2.5 mm long; 3.5–4.5 mm wide; green, or blue (green). Calyx rotate; 5-lobed (lobes ovate); glabrous. Petals conventional; fused; 5; white (rarely), or purple and blue; 6–7.5 mm long; not spurred. Corolla tubular, or funnel-form; 5-lobed. Stamens 5; stamen filaments glabrous; fused to the corolla. Anthers yellow; 0.8–1 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 2 (each divided into two at maturity); partly fused (with a deeply gynobasic style). Ovaries sub-globose; glabrous. Styles 1; 3.5–4 mm long; straight. Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary 4 (1 per carpel). Fruit stalked; with calyx persisting; dry; an aggregate of nutlets (4, in which the outer coat becomes spongy and inflated; an adaptation for dispersal by sea); spherical (before the capsule starts to split); golden brown (or dark brown); 4–5 mm long; 4–5.5 mm wide; glabrous; surface appearing veinless; distinctly flattened; schizocarpous. Seeds 1–4; 3–4 mm long; yellowish; surfaces smooth.

Chromosome information. 2n = 24.

2n (4x) = 24. For the collective species, Zhukova (1966, northeastern Asia); Mulligan, in Löve (1967c, Canada); Taylor and Mulligan (1968, western Canada); Sokolovskaya (1968, northeastern Asia, Koryak); Löve and Löve (1982a).

Ploidy levels recorded 4x.

Indigenous knowledge. Anderson (1939) reported that at that time in some places in Alaska the rootstocks of Lungwort were eaten.

Ecology and habitat. Elevation 1–10 m. Substrates: seashores; dry; gravel (beaches), sand; with low organic content. Sandy-gravelly shore at high water mark (CAN 505482); cobble gravel and sand beach; first major beach above high tide (CAN 485474); well-drained gravelly river delta at the mouth of a river in the splash zone (CAN 499621).

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. High Arctic (south of the Queen Elizabeth Islands). Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Banks, Victoria, Southampton.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Atlantic, or amphi-Beringian, or North American. Northern Iceland, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. The arctic race 'tenella' is morphologically distinct from the more southern 'maritima' in the North Atlantic area and from subsp. asiatica [Takeda (1911), J. Bot. (Tokyo) 49: 222], in the North Pacific area. The latter does not seem to really approach the Arctic even if there is a question mark for Chukchi Peninsula in Hultén (1968b). The arctic race is also genetically distinct from the North Atlantic one. Elven (personal communication, 2005) noted that subsp. tenella has an arctic circumpolar distribution. Most of the arctic plants are morphologically distinct from varieties that have a more southern distribution. The following characters that differentiate the subspecies were given by Elven in Lid & Lid (2005):

'maritima' leaves ovate, apex subacute to slightly acuminate, on relatively short petioles; calyx segments triangular, becomes distinctly larger during fruit maturation (c. 3.5 × 2.8 mm) and broadly cordate and acuminate; corolla 5–6 mm long, segments triangular to cordate, acute;

'tenella' leaves broadly spathulate, apex rounded or obtuse with a short, well-defined point; calyx segments ovate to narrowly cordate, do not increase much during fruit maturation (c. 2 × 1 mm); corolla 4–5 mm long, segments rounded, obtuse or subobtuse. These plants have been named as var. tenella (described from Svalbard) and occur from Svalbard and Jan Mayen across Greenland, Arctic Canada, and arctic Alaska, to arctic Russian Far East (Kolyma). They represent a major geographical race and deserve recognition as a subspecies. Supspecies tenella is also quite distinct from the North Atlantic subsp. maritima in molecular markers. Skarpås (1999, 2003) found total identity in isoenzymes in subsp. maritima from southernmost to northernmost mainland Norway and distinct differences from arctic (Svalbard) material of var. tenella.

Illustrations. • Habitat. Beach habitat with scattered plants. N.W.T., Banks Island, 6 miles west of Sachs Harbour. 25 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18819. CAN. • Habitat. Plants of Mertensia maritima (the Atlantic subsp. maritima) and Leymus arenarius in an estuary. Norway/Russia, Jakovselv estuary. July, 1979. Photograph by R. Elven. • Close-up of plant: Norway. Habit on sandy shore (the Atlantic subsp. maritima). Norway, Nordland, Flakstad, Nesland. 6 July, 1978. Photograph by R. Elven. • Close-up of plant: Canada. Plant with blue-green leaves and inflorescences of blue flowers lying on the gravel with Honckenya in the background. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Transportation beach. Aiken 2002. No voucher. • Close-up of leaf. Surface of the bluish green leaf showing conspicuous salt glands. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No Voucher. • Close-up of plant in bud. Plant with prostrate pinkish stems, blue-green simple, glabrous leaves, and clusters of bluish flowers. • Close-up of flowers in bud. Plants with simple blue-green leaves lacking petioles. The cymose inflorescences are in bud. Photograph by H. Foster. • Close-up of flowers beginning to open. Note the cymose inflorescence, the flower petals are pinkish in bud but turn blue as the flowers open. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 2002. No voucher. • Looking into flowers. Flowers with five fused blue petals and five anthers. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 2002. No voucher. • Close-up of anthers. Note stamen filaments attached to the petals after they have dehisced and anthers lying over the top of the purplish stigma and seen in the upper flower. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 2002. No voucher. • Close-up of plant. Drawing by Mrs. S. Bergh and Mrs. L. Barstad based on a collection from Svalbard, Nordenskiöld Land, Cole Bay. 15 August, 1908. H. Resvoll-Holmsen. O 200342. With permission of the Botanical Museum, University of Oslo, Norway. • Between flowering and setting fruit. Adjacent stages of early flowers, late flowers with sepals closing around petals that are being forced off the developing fruits, and older fruits. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No Voucher. • Fruit developing. The gynoecium in the flower was partly fused, which is more clearly seen in the early stage of fruit development. The fruit is stalked with the calyx persisting, somewhat fleshy at this early stage of development but later becoming a dry aggregate of nutlets. 2003. Carolyn Mallory. No Voucher. • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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