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

Viscaria alpina (L.) G. Don

English: Alpine chamion,

French: Lychnide alpine.

Caryophyllaceae, Pink family.

Published in Gen. Hist. 1: 415. 1831.

Type: Selected by Jonsell and Jarvis, Nord. J. Bot. 14: 157. 1994. Lectotype: LAPP 185.

Synonymy. Lychnis alpina L., Sp. Pl. 436. 1753.

Steris alpina (L.) Šourkov , Novit. Bot. 1973–1975: 27. 1976.

Silene suecica (Lodd.) Greuter and Burdet, Willdenowia, 12: 190. 1982.

Lychnis alpina L. subsp. americana (Fernald) J. Feilberg, Meddel. Grønl. Biosci. 15: 12. 1984.

Viscaria alpina (L.) G. Don var. americana Fern.

Viscaria alpina (L.) G. Don subsp. americana (Fern.) Böcher

Vegetative morphology. Plants (5–)10–15(–20) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Taproot present (sometimes branching). Ground level or underground stems absent. Caudex present (a narrow somewhat woody zone near ground-level). Aerial stems erect, or ascending. Leaves mainly basal, or basal in a rosette; opposite; marcescent. Petioles absent. Leaf blade bases truncate. Leaves not grass-like. Blades 15–80 mm long, 1.5–6 mm wide, spreading, linear or lanceolate (spatulate), flat, appearing single-veined. Blade adaxial surface dull, glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blade margins glabrous or with non-glandular hairs (sparsely ciliated in the proximal part); apices acute.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems solitary; with leaves. Inflorescences head-like (globose or subglobose); terminal (usually), or lateral. Bract leaves 4–5(–10) mm long (thin, pale to purple); 1.2–1.8 mm wide. Flowers per inflorescence 1–7 (several partial inflorescences); small, or medium-sized. Sepals conventional; 5; fused; 4–6.5 mm wide; purple (or pale, pigmentation strongest at apex and midrib); herbaceous (obscurely veined). Calyx bell-shaped, or ovoid; 5-lobed; without sessile glands; glabrous. Petals conventional; free; longer than the calyx; 5; pink, or purple; spatulate; notched; 7–9 mm long; 2–3 mm wide (at apex, about 0.5 mm at claw base. Coronal scales deeply bifid, of varying size and shape, sometimes almost absent.). Stamens 10; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers yellow; 1–1.2 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 5; syncarpous. Ovaries ovate, or clavate (or obovate, with a flattened disc-like apex); glabrous. Styles present; 5; free; 2.5–3 mm long. Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation free central (with basal septa). Ovules per ovary numerous. Fruit with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; ovoid, or obovate; yellowish; 4–9 mm long; 6–8 mm wide; surface appearing veinless; dehiscent; opening with teeth at the top of the capsule; teeth 5 (or sometimes 5 bifid teeth). Seeds numerous; 0.5–0.8 mm long; brown (to blackish); surfaces tuberculate (rugose to tuberculate).

Chromosome information. 2n = 24.

2n (2x) = 24. Löve (1954, Iceland); Löve and Löve (1956, Iceland); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Böcher (1963b, Greenland); Sorsa (1963b, Finland); Laane (1965, northern Norway); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, Norway); Mulligan, in Löve (1967c, eastern Canada); Engelskjøn (1979, Norway); Dalgaard (1989, western Greenland). Numerous more southern counts.

Ploidy levels recorded 2x.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: slopes; solifluction slopes; rocks, gravel, sand; with low organic content; calcareous (slightly). Gravelly soil of scree slopes below cliff (CAN 274122).

North American distribution. Nunavut Islands, northern Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Rare. Low Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Atlantic. Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Labrador – Hudson Bay, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Viscaria alpina has been placed in several different genera: Viscaria (Rohrbach 1868, Williams 1896), Lychnis (Chowdhuri 1957), Steris (Šourkov 1976), and Silene (Greuter et al. 1984, Greuter 1995). We adopt the generic boundaries of the tribe Sileneae, as suggested by Oxelman et al. (1997) and Lidén et al. (2001) based on molecular data, and recognise the species as Viscaria alpina (L.) G. Don.

This species is fairly variable, and several infraspecific taxa have been recognised. Differences in Amphi-Atlantic populations have been noted, and the American plants have been given taxonomic rank as var. americana or as subsp. americana.

When Fernald (1940) described Lychnis alpina L. var. americana, he stated that the albino form of americana is rare in comparison with the ordinary rosy-flowered plant. The North American plants are usually coarser than the European plants. Occasional collections from Iceland and Italy are as stout as the American plants, and some from Iceland and Norway have flowers approaching those of the North American plants in size. Dwarfed plants of var. americana, especially from Greenland, may be as small as some European specimens.

Fernald (1940) provided the following comparison of characters:

Radical leaves 1–3.5 cm long, 2–5 mm wide... var. alpina

thicker and firmer, 1.5–6.5 cm long, 2–8 mm wide...var. americana

Cauline leaves: 2–4 pairs, the larger leaves 1–3 cm long, 2–5 mm broad... var. alpina

3–7 pairs, the larger leaves 1.5–5.5 cm long, 2.5–10 mm broad... var. americana

Stem diameter: at most 2 mm, var. alpina

2–4 mm (dried material)... var. americana

Calyx during anthesis: 3–5 mm long..var. alpina

5–7 mm long....var. americana

Petals (including claw) 6–8 (rarely -9) mm long, 3–3.5 (-4) mm broad... var. alpina

8.5–14.5 mm long, 3–6 mm broad...var. americana

The measurements given in the description above were taken from specimens collected on Baffin Island and are closer to those of var. alpina than var. americana. No reason was found for recognising Fernald's variety for the material.

The flowers of Viscaria alpina are normally bisexual and protandrous, but functionally female plants with short and pale, rudimentary stamens occur in low numbers (Wesenberg, in Jonsell 2001a).

Illustrations. • Close-up of plant. Plant with a compact tuft of basal leaves, flowering stem with 2–3 pairs of leaves, and pink flowering heads. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Ogac Lake. 1964. Photographed by Ian McLaren. • Close-up of inflorescence. Inflorescence with several partial inflorescences of numerous pink flowers, seen most clearly in the partial inflorescences in a dichasium below the main flowering cluster. Norway, N. Rana, Flatismoren. August, 1976. Photograph by R. Elven. • Close-up of flower. Petals pink or purple, spatulate and two-lobed. Norway, Buskerud, Ål, Vats. 9 July, 1974. With permission of the Botanical Museum,University of Oslo, Norway. Photograph by R. Borge. • 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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