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

Papaver L.

English: Poppy,

Inuktitut: Igutsat niqingit.

Papaveraceae, Poppy family.

Published in Sp. Pl. 506. 1753.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 3–15(–40) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Taproot present. Ground level or underground stems vertical. Caudex present (at ground level and tapering into a long taproot). Aerial stems a small transition zone between taproot and basal leaves. Leaves mainly basal (basal); alternate; dying annually and non-persistent (blades), or marcescent (with numerous, short, dull, persistent leaf bases). Petioles 4–80 mm long; flat; glabrous, or hairy. Leaf blade bases truncate, or obtuse, or cuneate. Blades (10–)20–120 mm long, (10–)20–120 mm wide, lanceolate, flat, veins pinnate. Blade adaxial surface dull, glabrous or hairy (sub-glabrous), hairs simple, hairs sparse to dense, hairs white, or translucent (or light brown). Blade abaxial surface glaucous or not glaucous, glabrous or hairy (sub-glabrous), hairs sparse to moderately dense, hairs white (or light brown). Blades lobed. Blade margins with non-glandular hairs; apices acuminate, or acute, or obtuse, or rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems conspicuously taller than the leaves; without leaves. Flowers solitary. Flowers medium-sized, or large. Sepals conventional; 2 (connate, igloo-shaped, with specialised margins, enclosing the bud, caducous); free; 8–12 mm wide (probably both shorter and longer); green, or brown. Calyx hairy. Calyx hairs brown, or black. Petals conventional; free; 4; white, or yellow, or pink (sometimes tipped with pink, very rarely all pink); obovate (to broadly obovate); unlobed, or slightly lobed or undulating; (8–)10–20(–30) mm long. Stamens 20–50. Anthers yellow; short-cylindrical, or long-cylindrical. Ovary superior; carpels 4–8 (or more); syncarpous. Ovaries hairy; strigose (bristles). Ovary hairs sparse, or moderately dense, or very dense; brown (almost black); appressed; straight (or curved, with more or less thickened bases). Styles absent. Placentation parietal. Ovules per ovary 50–500 (numerous). Fruit dry; a capsule; spherical (subglobose or hemispherical), or ellipsoid (barrel shaped), or obovate (obovoid), or oblong, or clavate. Capsule 3–4 times longer than broad, or 2–2.5 times longer than broad, or 1–1.5 times longer than broad. Fruit brown; 5–25 mm long; 5–10 mm wide; hairy; not distinctly flattened; dehiscent. Styles [stigmas] persisting. Seeds 50–500 (numerous); 0.9–1.1 mm long; brown; surfaces ridged.

Indigenous knowledge. Inuit refer to Arctic poppy as igutsat niqingit. Igutsat translates as "bumblebees", a reference to the observation that the yellow flowers are much appreciated by bumblebees. Igutsat niqingit means "bumblebee food" (Ootoova et al. 2001). The Arctic poppy was chosen as the summer flower, among the three plants on the Nunavut Coat of Arms. The spring flower is the purple saxifrage; the fall plant is the crowberry.

General notes. The genus Papaver has 70–80 named species. They are perennial plants with solitary flowers, each borne on long, leaf-less flowering stems from a rosette. The arctic and alpine poppies all belong to the largest section in the genus, sect. Meconella Spach. The section is monophyletic and the Asian representatives of Meconopsis Vig. are resolved as sister to section Meconella (Carolan et al. 2006). Recognition of sect. Meconella as a separate genus may be unavoidable but then with a different name. The morphological variation in sect. Meconella is appreciable, and it is notorious for taxonomic problems. Attempts at resolving patterns have been made regionally (e.g., Knaben 1959a, 1959b, and Nilsson, in Jonsell 2001, for northern Europe; Tolmachev 1975 and Petrovsky 1999, for northern Russia; Kiger and Murray 1997, for North America; Böcher et al. 1978, for Greenland) and globally (Rändel 1974). These authors have not achieved consensus as to number of species or their circumscription. The treatments currently applied in many regions are tentative, and some are partly incompatible with one another.

Two or more taxa of Papaver often grow together in arctic regions. There may be some ecological differentiation, but this has not been analysed. Despite what is known from experimental crosses (Knaben 1959b) and the occurrence of a very few odd chromosome numbers (see below) obvious hybrids were not observed during our extensive field work (Elven and Solstad).

The entities that grow together often differ in chromosome numbers, and this may result in fairly strong reproductive barriers. Members of sect. Meconella vary in ploidy levels, from diploid (2n = 14) to dodecaploid (2n = 84). A few chromosome counts have been made of intermediate ploidal levels (2n = 35 or 5x in P. pulvinatum Tolm., Zhukova & Petrovsky 1985; 2n = 105 or 15x in P. nudicaule L. s.l., Zhukova et al. 2003). The North European plants that have been investigated are self-compatible and mainly autogamous (Nordal et al. 1997). Some garden and experimental hybridisation is known to produce some fertile offspring (Murbeck 1894).

The two geographically most widely distributed arctic species currently recognised are P. dahlianum Nordh. and P. lapponicum (Tolm.) Nordh. (Solstad et al. unpublished). These are both predominantly high polyploids (octo- to dodecaploid), and each may be the result of several independent reticulations from a basic stock of diploids and low polyploids. Known possible parental diploids (or their descendants) are restricted to temperate mountain ranges in Europe (P. alpinum L. aggregate), Asian steppes, steppe forests and mountains (P. croceum Ledeb. and relatives), western North America mountains (P. pygmaeum Rydb.), and Beringia (P. microcarpum DC. aggregate, P. stanovense (Petroch.) Peschkova, and P. walpolei A.E.Porsild). The substitution rates in analysed DNA sequences (plastid and nuclear regions) are mostly low (Solstad et al., unpublished), indicating close relationships and probably a short (Quaternary) evolutionary history. Probably much of the difficulty in recognising and delimiting taxa among the northern poppies is due to comparatively recent reticulation. However, application of a fingerprint method (AFLP) revealed distinct groups, probably representing taxa, although relationships among taxa are more complicated (Solstad et al. unpubl.).

Illustrations. • Close-up of plant. Flowers of Papaver are heliotrophic, which means they always face the sun. Nunavut, Axel Heiberg Island, Geodetic hills. July, 1982. S. Cumbaa. No voucher. • Large fruit capsules. Fruiting capsules more than 1 cm long, and covered with brown hairs. Note the anther filaments at the lower left side of the capsule. D.F. Murray and B.A. Yutsev 10414. 9 August, 1990. CAN 582686. • Close-up of flower at anthesis. Flower with four overlapping petals, numerous anthers at anthesis, and a developing ovary with dark hairs on the outer surface and stigmas. No styles present. J.M. Gillett 18978. CAN 586509.


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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