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

Rumex arcticus Trautv.

English: Arctic Dock, arctic sourdock,

Inuktitut: Naka (Pangirtung central dialect).

Polygonaceae, Buckwheat family.

Published in Reise in "Phaenog. Pfl. Hochnord. 29 1: 29. 1847.

Type: Described from Siberia: "Taimyr R. 74 1/4° and 75°N".

Synonymy. Rumex kamtschadalus Kom., Feddes Repert. 13: 166. 1914.

Rumex arcticus Trautv. var. kamtschadalus (Kom.) Rech.f., in Tolm., Fl. Arct. URSS 5: 155. 1966.

Vegetative morphology. Plants (10–)15–80 cm high; herbs; perennial herbs. Taproot present (usually), or only fibrous roots present (weak-developed in older plants). Roots red-brown, or black. Ground level or underground stems absent. Caudex present (stout, not elongate). Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal and distributed along the stems; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent (flowering stem leaves basal leaves marcescent). Stipules present; 5–15 mm long; 3–8 mm wide (tubular width measured, width depends on width of stem); sheathing; brown; glabrous; apex truncate. Petioles 1–13 mm long (to 30 mm long on basal leaves, short on cauline leaves); glabrous. Leaf blade bases obtuse, or cuneate. Leaves not grass-like. Blades (20–)40–120(–150) mm long, 10–40 mm wide, spreading, oblong or lanceolate, flat, veins pinnate. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blade apices acute.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems with leaves. Inflorescences paniculate and racemose (a panicle of racemes); diffuse; 5–15 cm long; 25–60 mm wide; elongating as the fruit matures. Pedicels present (usually), or absent (at the same node of the inflorescence some flowers are sessile and some pedicelled); glabrous. Flowers per inflorescence 100–300 (or more); small. Sepals conventional; 3; free; 0.5–1 mm long (approximately); 1–1.5(–2) mm wide (in flower); purple, or red, or black (deep red appearing black); petaloid; accrescent. Calyx glabrous. Petals absent. Stamens 3–6; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers 0.5–0.7 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2; free; 0.2–0.6 mm long. Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit stalked; with calyx persisting; dry; an achene; ovoid; brown; 2.5–3 mm long (surrounded by enlarged calyx sepals that are 4–7 mm long, 3–56 mm wide); 1.2–2 mm wide; surface appearing veinless; distinctly flattened; indehiscent. Achenes lenticular.

Chromosome information. 2n = 40–200 (40, 80, 120, 150, 170, 200).

2n (4x) = 40. Knaben (1968, central Alaska); Mulligan and Porsild (1969b, Yukon); Mulligan et al. (1972a); Mulligan and Frankton (1972); Löve and Löve (1975, as 'kamtschadalus'); Dawe and Murray (1981, central Alaska); Löve (1986b, as 'kamtschadalus')

2n (8x) = 80. Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Dawe and Murray (1981a and b, western Alaska, three counts); Zhukova (1982, northeastern Asia);

2n (12x) = 120. Ichikawa et al. (1971); Mulligan and Frankton (1972); Löve and Löve, in Löve (1975b); Zhukova (1980, 1982, northeastern Asia); Löve (1986b);

2n (15x) = 150. Zhukova (1965a, eastern Chukotka, 2n = 150+); Zhukova et al. (1973, northern and northeastern Asia, 2n = 150+); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia);

2n (17x) = 170. Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska);

2n (20x) = 200. Löve and Löve (1948, 2n = about 200); Sokolovskaya (1968, northeastern Asia, Koryak, as 'kamtschadalus'!). Sokolovskaya's count on Komarov's 'kamtschadalus'

Löve and Löve (1975) reported only decaploid counts under this species name, in spite of several earlier counts of both lower and higher numbers. They reported the tetraploid counts (all North American) as R. kamtschadalus. Where they hid the remaining 2n = 120 counts is uncertain, but two of the three references appear as 2n = 40 under R. kamtschadalus. There seems to be a fairly good documentation for at least three, perhaps four, ploidy levels in this species (Elven et al. 2003).

Ploidy levels recorded 4x, 8x, 12x, 15x, 17x, and 20.

Indigenous knowledge. The mildly acidic leaves of young stems may be eaten raw as a salad, or cooked as spinach (Porsild 1953). Eva Aariak (personal communication, 2006) reported that the red flowering stems are called naka (Pangnirtung central dialect). The green leaves and the red stems were collected separately, boiled in water and used to make a red or a green-coloured drink. The flavour of the two drinks was much the same, but the result was the equivalent of Kool Aid.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: lakeshores, seashores (on sandy beaches); moderately well-drained areas; gravel, sand; with low organic content.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, continental Nunavut. Arctic islands: Banks.

Northern hemisphere distribution. North American (western), or Siberian (also in northeastern Europe). Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, 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.

General notes. Elven (personal communication, 2005) commented that the (in)famous "sourdock" of the Alaskan Eskimos is made from Rumex arcticus, seal blubber, either blueberries or crowberries (or both), and several sessions of fermentation resupplied with fresh plant material. "I have tried it, and the taste (very special) lingered for days."

Illustrations. • Habitat. Red-coloured Rumex arcticus plant about 70 cm tall, in fruit, among the green Leymus mollis. N.W.T., Anderson River Delta, about 5 km southeast of Krekovick Landing, 6940.3'N, 12852.4'W. 6 August, 1997. L.L. Consaul 1145 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Habitat. Rumex arcticus plants, up to 1 metre tall, in a lakeshore habitat. N.W.T., Mackenzie River delta, 18 km southeast of Swimming Point, 691.6'N, 1340'W. 14 August, 1997. L.L. Consaul 1159 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Plant habit. Plants growing on a sandy beach near coastguard station. N.W.T., Tuktoyaktuk. 21 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18739. • Close-up of plant. Plants in early fruiting stage growing in wetland with Arctophila and Carex. Yukon, Buckland Hills, North of British Mountains. August, 1999. Photograph by R. Elven. Voucher at 0. • Close-up of plant. Rumex arcticus plants, up to 1 metre tall, in a lakeshore habitat. N.W.T., Mackenzie River delta, 18 km southeast of Swimming Point, 691.6'N, 1340'W. 14 August, 1997. L.L. Consaul 1159 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescence. Flowers and developing fruit of Rumex arcticus inflorescence. N.W.T., Mackenzie River delta, 18 km southeast of Swimming Point, 691.6'N, 1340'W. 14 August, 1997. L.L. Consaul 1159 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Close-up of pressed inflorescence. Flowers with large reddish yellow anthers and fluffy pale yellowish stigmas. Yukon. 25 June, 1971. CAN 375897. • Close-up of pressed fruit. Dry fruit with a central achene and a large wing around the achene. Yukon, Big Creek. 23 August, 1970. CAN 364738. • 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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