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

Bistorta vivipara (L.) Delarbre

English: Inuit peanuts, alpine bistort,

French: Renouée vivipare,

Inuktitut: Sapangaralannguat, turlait, tuqtait (South Baffin Island), inuit qaqquangangit, tursaq (Nunavik).

Polygonaceae, Buckwheat family.

Published in Fl. Aveyron, ed. 2, 516. 1800.

Type: Selected by Jonsell and Jarvis, Nord. J. Bot. 14: 154. 1994. Lectotype: LINN 510.4.

Synonymy. Polygonum viviparum L., Sp. Pl. 360. 1753.

Persicaria vivipara (L.) Ronse Decr., Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 98: 368. 1988.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 2.5–24 cm high; perennial herbs; sometimes vegetatively proliferating by bulbils on stems or leaves. Taproot present (below the caudex, rarely preserved). Roots white (inside), or red-brown (outside). Ground level or underground stems horizontal, or vertical; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact; 5–12 mm wide. Caudex present (the Inuit nut). Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal and distributed along the stems (a few cauline leaves present along taller stems); alternate; dying annually and non-persistent (blades), or marcescent (petioles). Stipules present; 0.8–15 mm long; 1.5–5(–8) mm wide; sheathing; brown, or white, or colourless; glabrous; apex truncate. Petioles 4–45 mm long; glabrous (usually), or hairy (sometimes short-hairy margins and veins); pubescent (when hairs present). Petiole hairs shorter than the diameter of the petiole; spreading, or erect (when present); curved, or wavy (when present). Leaf blade bases rounded (basal leaves), or attenuate (stem leaves). Blades 4–50(–80) mm long, 3–10 mm wide, appressed to the stem or spreading, oblong or elliptic, flat, appearing single-veined. Blade adaxial surface highly glossy, glabrous. Blade abaxial surface hairy, hairs tomentose, hairs sparse, hairs white and rust-coloured, hairs wavy, hairs spreading. Blade margins slightly revolute. Blade apices acute.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems with leaves. Inflorescences with bulbils (usually below the terminal flowers); spicate; diffuse; 1–8 cm long; 5–10 mm wide; elongating as the fruit matures. Pedicels absent. Flowers per inflorescence 10–80; small; bisexual (often sterile in arctic plants). Sepals conventional (tepals); 5; free; 0.7–1.5 mm long; 1.5–3 mm wide; pink, or white; petaloid; accrescent (slightly). Calyx glabrous. Petals absent. Stamens 3–5; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers 0.3–0.4 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2–3 (fused at the base and branching into 2–3 long branches with stigmatic tips); free; 0.8–1.8 mm long. Stigmas per ovary 2, or 3 (per flower). Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; with calyx persisting; dry; an achene; ovoid; brown; 1.7–3 mm long; 1–1.8 mm wide; surface appearing veinless; not distinctly flattened; indehiscent. Achenes trigonous.

Chromosome information. 2n = 77, or 80, or 83, or 88, or 96, or 99, or 100, or 110, or 120, or 132 (many approximate, also 83–88).

2n (7x-12x) = about 77 to about 132.

2n = 66, 88, 99. Engell (1978, Finland);

2n = 66, 88, 99. Jonsell (2000, Faeroe Islands);

2n = about 77, 88, 99. Engell (1973, Finland);

2n = about 80. Zhukova and Petrovsky (1972, Wrangel Island); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1973, Chukotka);

2n = 88. Zhukova (1982, northeastern Asia);

2n = 98. Rostovtseva (1977, southern and northern Siberia);

2n = about 100. Flovik (1940, Svalbard; 1967, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1976, western Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1973, northeastern Asia); Löve and Löve (1948, northern Europe; 1956, Iceland); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Dawe and Murray, in Löve (1979, Alaska); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1982, northern Siberia);

2n = more than 100. Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960, northern Russia); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Taylor and Mulligan (1968, western Canada); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska);

2n = about 100. Löve and Löve (1948, northern Europe),

2n = about 110 Löve and Löve (1948 northern Europe);

2n = 120. Löve and Solbrig (1964a, Arctic Canada); Löve and Löve (1982, Arctic Canada);

2n = 120. Löve and Ritchie (1966, central Canada);

2n = more than 120. Sokolovskaya (1972, western Russia);

2n = about 132. Löve and Löve (1956, Iceland); Löve and Solbrig (1964a, Arctic Canada); Löve and Löve (1982, Arctic Canada, 2n = 120)

2n = about 132. Á. Löve (1982a, Arctic Canada).

Ploidy levels recorded 7x-12x.

Indigenous knowledge. An Inuit name for this species is sapangaralannguat and means "imitation small beads". The starchy rhizome of this species is called uqpigait, and can be eaten raw, but since it is slightly astringent, it is better eaten cooked (Ootoova et al. 2001). Eva Aariak (personal communication, 2006) claimed that in her experience the "nut" was always eaten raw. In Alaska, the roots are eaten raw in summer (Lantis 1959).

The rootstocks, although slightly astringent, are rich in starch and have a sweet, nutty flavour (Porsild 1953).

Called "Inuit nuts" in Iqaluit, they have a taste like almonds (Sherry Sadler, personal communication, 2003). Other names for this plant are turlait, tuqtait, and inuit qaqquangangit. The Inuit eat the leaves and bulbils as well (Mallory and Aiken 2004).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: hummocks, around the margins of ponds, along streams, river terraces, lakeshores, tundra, slopes, ridges, cliffs; dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks, gravel, sand, till.

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. Arctic, alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands, Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, Southampton, Coats (Bylot, Digges, Prince Charles, Resolution, Salisbuy, Stefanson, Ellef Ringnes Islands, Boothia and Melville peninsulas).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal. Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, 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. This species is treated under the name Bistorta in several references such as Flora of North America (Freeman and Hinds 2005), Flora Europaea, and Flora Nordica.

Russell (1940) performed ecological studies on arctic vegetation and found that Oxyria digyna and Persicaria vivipara (Polygonum viviparum) showed adequate carbon assimilation for increased growth, but that low temperature and low nitrogen supply curbed the growth rate. Savile (1972) suggested that these restrictions halted growth soon enough to ensure adequate seed production in the short summer.

"This bistort often grows in areas of high soil fertility, near animal dens, bird nesting sites, or human habitations. The pecan-shaped rhizomes have long been used by the Inuit, and the leaves and bulbils were often eaten. The bulbils are also sought by ptarmigan and small seed-eating birds" (Burt 2000, p. 60).

Kellman (1882) stated that according to people in Chukotka, the rhizomes of this plant must be collected immediately after the snow leaves the ground and before the first leaves appear. Only the rhizome, which is the size on an unshelled peanut, is used. To find and collect it in spring is no easy task, but Kellman reported that the people he observed had surprisingly good results. Elven (personal communication, 2005) noted that it is easy to find, as the withered leaves remain over winter.

Illustrations. • Plant habit. Plants with red flowers growing in moss along a seepage slope. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, near John Richardson Bay, 8021'N, 7121'W. Aiken 98–043. CAN. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. Scale bar in cm. • Inuit nuts: rhizomes. Plants dug up from light sandy soil in the adjacent tundra and placed on a rock to show the tubers that are edible. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Ogac Lake. Aiken and LeBlanc 04–098. CAN 586570. • Close-up of Inuit nuts. Plants dug up from light sandy soil in the adjacent tundra and placed on a rock to show the tubers that are edible. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Ogac Lake. Aiken and LeBlanc 04–098. CAN 586570. • Front view of ocreate sheath. Ocreate sheath with margins fused around the stem at the node. Nunavut, Axel Heiberg Island, Mokka Fiord. 18 July, 1973. G. Parker AH-73–72B. CAN 368171. • Close-up of plants. Plant on dry hillside with willow, Cassiope. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. 21 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18728. CAN. • Inflorescence flowers and bulbils. Flowering stems with bulbils at the base. This is the basis of the species name B. vivipara. Aiken 05–070. CAN. 586942. Photograph by Kathy Thornhill. • Close-up of inflorescence. Individual flowers about 2 mm long. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, near John Richardson Bay, 8021'N, 7121'W. Aiken 98–043. CAN. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Stems with proliferating bulbils. Flowering stems with bulbils that have begun to develop into small plants. This is the basis of the species name B. vivipara. Aiken 05–070. CAN 586942. Photograph by Kathy Thornhill. • Close-up of sprouting bulbils. Portion of a stem with bulbils that have begun to develop into small plants. This is the basis of the species name B. vivipara. Aiken 05–070. CAN 586942. Photograph by Kathy Thornhill. • Close-up of inflorescence. Pink-flowered inflorescence of plants growing on a sandy beach. N.W.T., Banks Island, 6 miles west of Sachs Harbour. July 25, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18835. CAN. • Close-up of fruits. Dark brown dry achene fruits with pale brown subtending scales. Nunavut, Axel Heiberg Island, Mokka Fiord. 18 July, 1973. G. Parker AH-73–72B. CAN 368171. • 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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