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

Oxytropis DC.

Fabaceae (Leguminosae), Pea family.

Published in Astragalogia, ed quarto: 66, ed. folio: 53. 1802.

Type: Canada: Melville Island, leg. Mr. Beverley, selected by Welsh. Great Basin Natural. 55. 1995. Lectotype: K.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 1–35 cm high (mean height 12 cm); perennial herbs; caespitose; glandular viscid, or not glandular viscid. Taproot present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Horizontal stems at ground level, branching extensively to shape plant habit as cushions (if applicable). Caudex present. Aerial stems erect, or ascending, or decumbent. Aerial stem trichomes appressed, or spreading, or erect. Leaves distributed along the stems, or mainly basal (usually); alternate; dying annually and non-persistent (blades), or marcescent (petioles). Stipules present; 2–30 mm long; 0.2–8 mm wide; sheathing, or not sheathing (usually); brown, or white, or colourless; hairy; pilose, or villous, or long-silky; apex acuminate, or obtuse. Petioles 5–60 mm long; hairy; villous, or tomentose, or long-silky, or strigose. Petiole hairs shorter than the diameter of the petiole, or longer than the diameter of the petiole; appressed, or spreading, or erect, or reflexed; straight, or curved; smooth. Leaf blades compound. Blades (15–)20–120 mm long, 3–25 mm wide, veins pinnate or with inconspicuous veins. Blade adaxial surface dull or fresh green, with sessile glands or without sessile glands, glabrous (rarely) or hairy (usually), hairs pubescent or pilose or villous or short-silky or long-silky, hairs simple, hairs sparse, hairs white, or translucent. Blade abaxial surface with sessile glands or without sessile glands or glandular hairs, hairy, hairs pilose or villous or short-silky or long-silky, hairs sparse or moderately dense or very dense, hairs white, hairs straight or curved or wavy, hairs appressed or spreading. Blade margins flat or slightly revolute. Blade apices acuminate, or acute, or obtuse, or rounded. Leaflet arrangement pinnate. Leaflets (3–)5–33; 1.5–10 mm long; 0.5–8 mm wide; linear, or oblong, or elliptic, or ovate, or lanceolate; veins inconspicuous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems about as high as the leaves, or conspicuously taller than the leaves; without leaves. Flowering stems hairy. Flowering stems pilose, or villous, or tomentose, or long-silky, or strigose. Flowering stem hairs simple; shorter than the diameter of the flowering stem; white or translucent, or black. Flowers solitary, or in inflorescences. Inflorescences spicate, or racemose and head-like; dense, or diffuse; globose or sub-globose; 0.5–6 cm long; 10–40 mm wide. Pedicels present, or absent. Floral scales hairy all over, or hairy mainly at apex. Flowers per inflorescence 1–13; medium-sized, or large; bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Sepals conventional; 5; fused; 4.5–10 mm wide; green, or yellow, or brown, or purple, or red, or black, or pink. Calyx tubular; 5-lobed; hairy. Calyx hairs pilose, or villous; glandular, or non-glandular; white or translucent, or black. Calyx teeth equal or nearly so, or sub-equal or unequal; without or with few glandular verrucae, or with abundant glandular verrucae; 0.8–3 mm long. Petals conventional; both free and fused; 5; yellow, or orange, or pink, or purple, or blue; with contrasting markings (with a pointed tip to the keel); unlobed, or slightly lobed or undulating; 7–30 mm long. Corolla papilionaceous; keel with a pointed tip. Stamens 10; stamen filaments all equal in length (or slightly unequal). Anther filaments 9 fused into a tube, plus 1 free. Anthers 0.3–0.5 mm long. Nectaries present. Ovary superior; carpels 1; monomerous. Stigmas per ovary 1. Ovules per ovary 4–30. Fruit sessile, or stalked; with calyx persisting; dry; a legume; ellipsoid, or ovoid, or elongate-cylindrical, or obovate, or oblong; yellowish, or black, or brown, or green at maturity; 8–30 mm long; 2–10 mm wide; hairy (usually), or glabrous, or glabrescent; dehiscent; opening at the apex and partially or fully down one side. Legume unilocular; valves straight. Styles persisting but not modified. Seeds 3–25; 1–3 mm long; black, or brown; surfaces smooth.

Chromosome information. 2n = 16, or 96.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: rocks, gravel, sand.

North American distribution. Arctic islands: Baffin, Parry islands, Banks, Victoria, King William, Southampton, Coats.

General notes. Porsild (1943) stated, ‘Of the numerous critical species of plants in the flora of boreal and arctic North America, most of the members of the genus Oxytropis, as shown by Fernald (1925), have been much misunderstood by earlier writers. Hooker (1834) clearly did not understand the genus, nor did John Macoun in his catalogue of Canadian Plants, nor in more recent times J.M. Macoun and Theodore Holm (1921). In addition to taxonomic difficulties the genus offers a number of geographical puzzles, as pointed out by Simmons (1913, p. 111)."

The "Revision of the North American species of Oxytropis" produced by Barneby (1952) began as a less ambitious project restricted to the western United States. However, as alluded by Porsild above, Barneby noted there was a state of affairs confirmed by chaos on the shelves of many herbaria. The species listed seemed to outnumber by far those existing in nature, while their names had acquired an abundance of disordered synonyms. The opus by Barneby grew to include the whole of North America. In an updated summary, and as one of a series of papers contributing to treatments for the Flora North America, Welsh (1991) listed all the names, basionyms, types, and synonyms known to have been applied to the genus Oxytropis in North America.

Elven et al. (2005) noted that the current Russian and North American treatments, exemplified by Yurtsev's draft for Elven et al. (2003) and Gillett et al. (1999 onwards), diverged (if possible) even more in this genus than in Astragalus. There is much variation both in northern Asia and North America, and it is now treated quite differently. The taxonomic challenge is to attempt to reach some middle approach between the extensive splitting in the naming of taxa in Russia-Siberian plants and the equally extensive lumping in the North American approach.


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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