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

Koenigia islandica L.

English: Koenigia,

French: Koenigie d'islande.

Polygonaceae, Buckwheat family.

Published in Mantissa Plantarum 1: 35. 1767.

Type: Selected by Elkington, in Jarvis et al., Regnum Veg. 127: 59. 1993. Lectotype: LINN 110.1

Synonymy. Koenigia islandica L. var. arctica Hadač, Stud. Bot. Cech. 5: 3. 1942.

Koenigia hadacii Á. Löve and D. Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 506. 1976.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 1–5 cm high (to 12 cm tall in Greenland pressed specimens); herbs; annual herbs. Taproot present. Roots pale yellow filiform threads. Ground level or underground stems absent. Caudex absent. Aerial stems ascending, or prostrate. Leaves distributed along the stems (and in an apical whorl); alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Stipules present; 0.5–2 mm long; 0.5–1.8 mm wide (often much wider at the top of the ocrea); sheathing; brown, or colourless; glabrous; apex truncate. Petioles 0.5–2(–3) mm long; glabrous. Leaf blade bases attenuate, or rounded. Blades 1.2–5 mm long, 0.5–3 mm wide, spreading or divaricate, obovate or spatulate, flat, appearing single-veined or with inconspicuous veins. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blade apices rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems with leaves (often in a terminal whorl around the flowers). Inflorescences head-like (flowers in groups of 2–3(-5)); dense; 0.5–0.8 cm long; 0.5–1 mm wide. Pedicels present (short). Flowers per inflorescence 3–10; small (as a single, petaloid perianth whorl of sepals or "tepals"). Sepals conventional; 3; free; 0.5–1 mm long; 1–2.3 mm wide; green (near bottom of flower), or pink, or white; petaloid; accrescent. Calyx glabrous. Petals absent. Stamens (1–)3(–5); stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers 0.1–0.3 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles absent (stigmas sessile). Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; with calyx persisting; dry; an achene; ovoid, or obovate; black, or brown; 1–1.5 mm long; 0.5–1 mm wide; surface appearing veinless; not distinctly flattened; indehiscent. Achenes subterete.

Chromosome information. 2n = 28.

2n (4x) = 28. Hagerup (1926, Greenland); Edman (1929, northern Europe); Löve and Löve (1948, northern Europe; 1956, Iceland); Sørensen and Westergaard, in Löve and Löve (1948, Greenland); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Löve and Sarkar (1957, Canada?); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Menshikova (1964); Zhukova (1965a, eastern Chukotka; 1967, 1982, northeastern Asia); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, northern Norway); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Löve et al. (1971, western North America); Moore (1981, South America); Dalgaard (1988, western Greenland); Hultgård (unpublished Svalbard, included by Jonsell 2000).

A diploid chromosome count (2n = 14) from Svalbard was reported by Löve and Löve, in Löve (1975a), and recognised as a separate species, K. hadacii (Löve and Löve 1976). A voucher for their diploid Svalbard count has not been found, and the number has not been confirmed by later counts (Hultgård, personal communication). The entity is therefore not recognised, as it is reported to differ from K. islandica s.s. in size only. However, the Svalbard plants become just as tall as others when manured.

Ploidy levels recorded 4x.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: snow patches, around the margins of ponds, along streams, lakeshores; imperfectly drained moist areas, seepage slopes; till, moss; peat (wet muck in shallow seasonal ponds). "On more or less permanently moist ground along small streams, ponds and lakes, especially in localities with long-lasting snow cover, occurring from sea-level in Arctic (and Antarctic) areas up to 3800 m in the Rocky Mountains, and at least 4800 m in Himalaya" (Hedberg 1997).

North American distribution. "From Himalaya and the high mountains in western China the species extends to form a slightly discontinuous Arctic circumpolar distribution with outliers in Scotland, in the Rocky Mountains of north America, and in southern South America" (Hedberg 1997). Alaska, Yukon, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited (possibly overlooked). Uncommon. Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Southampton (Meighen, Resolution).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal (arctic-alpine). Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, 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. Koenigia islandica is one of the few annual species on the Arctic islands. It is confined to areas where it receives protection in a pocket of still warm air on sunny days and also receives protection from the wind. It matures at a height less than 5 cm, so the growth period is at a minimum and all tissues remain close to the warm soil (Savile 1972).

Sørensen (1941) found that seeds of Koenigia islandica germinate promptly in their first spring, even though it would seem advantageous for a dormancy delay of germination beyond the first year.

A centre of diversity of this circumpolar species in the mountains of southeastern Asia is indicated by the taller and more profusely branched plants that have less reduced 4- to 5-merous flowers found there. The other species in this genus are also found in this area of southeastern Asia (Hedberg 1997).

Dahl (1963) discussed the heat exchange of a wet vegetation surface and the ecology of Koenigia islandica. It is a nice study of the thermic regulation of arctic-alpine plants and initiated the study of lethally high temperatures, restricting the range of alpine-arctic plants (Elven, personal communication, 2005).

Illustrations. • Habitat. Plants growing in the foreground, in acidic gravel with tiny Saxifraga cernua and Eleocharis acicularis. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Lower Savage Island, about 500 metres from coast, 61°49'N, 65°43'W. 13 August, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2351, L.J. Gillespie and R.J. Soreng. CAN. • Habitat. Plants seen here as tiny red dots in acidic gravel with small Saxifraga and Salix arctica. Nunavut, Baffin Island. Lower Savage Island, about 500 metres from coast, 61°49'N, 65°43'W. 13 August, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2351, L.J. Gillespie and R.J. Soreng. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Plants 1–2 cm long in acidic gravel. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Lower Savage Island, about 500 metres from coast, 61°49'N, 65°43'W. 13 August, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2351, L.J. Gillespie and R.J. Soreng. CAN. • Habitat. Dense stand on river bar. Alaska, Alaska Range, McCallum Creek. August, 2000. Photograph by H. Solstad. • Habitat: Southampton Island. Tiny green plants near the scale bar and tiny red plants near the collection number bar. Plants less than 2 cm high. Nunavut, Southampton Island, Coral Harbour. Aiken and Brysting 01–074. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Close-up of red flowering plant. Close-up of red plants with green and white sepals. Note red leaves possibly resulting from a habitat of higher salinity. Nunavut, Southampton Island, Coral Harbour. Aiken and Brysting 01–074. CAN. • Close-up of green plant. Note small white flowers and green leaves that possibly result from less salinity in the habitat. This may be from either because the site is a snow patch or receives fresh water seepage. Nunavut, Southampton Island, Coral Harbour Island. Aiken and Brysting 01–074. CAN. • Close-up of green plant: Southampton. Note small fruit developing, the somewhat succulent leaves, and the green and white sepals. Nunavut, Southampton Island, Coral Harbour Island. Aiken and Brysting 01–074. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Drawing by Mrs. S. Bergh and Mrs. L. Barstad based on a collection from Svalbard, Sørkapp Land, Bjørnbeinflyan. 29 July, 1920. J. Lid 181. O 201549. With permission of the Botanical Museum University of Oslo, Norway. • Close-up of ochrea. Ocreate sheath characteristic of the family. Greenland, Pakiboq, Niaqoruaq. 25 July, 1961. Beschel 12137. CAN 274468. • Close-up of fruits. A cluster of 4 fruits, each a dry achene, distinctly flattened and with broad wings. Greenland, 20 July, 1899. CAN 42874. • Close-up of young fruits. Inflorescences in the early stages of fruiting. Greenland, Pakiboq, Niaqoruaq. 25 July, 1961. Beschel 12137. CAN 274468. • 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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