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

Alopecurus magellanicus Lam.

English: Alpine foxtail,

French: Vulpin boréal,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka, ivi.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Tabl. Encycl. 1: 168. 1791. (Soreng et al. (2003, Catalogue of New World Grasses (Poaceae): IV. Subfamily Pooideae, Contrib. U.S. Natl. Herb. 48: 1–730) accepted A. magellanicus as the name of the species.)

Incorrectly A. alpinus L. (Porsild 1964). The name A. alpinus Sm. (1803) is illegitimate as it is a later homonym of another species, "of the alpine" A. alpinus Vill., Hist. Pl. Dauphiné 1: 306, 427. 1786.

Type: Chile: "Magallanes", leg. Commerson. Holotype: P.

Synonymy. Alopecurus alpinus Sm. in Sowerby, Engl. Bot. 16: t. 1126. 1803. non Vill., Hist. Pl. Dauphiné 1: 306, 427 (1786). Described from Scotland.

Alopecurus alpinus D. Villars, Hist. Pl. Dauphiné, 1: 306.1786.

Alopecurus borealis Trin. Fundamenta Agrostographiae 58: 1820. Described from western Alaska: Bering Sea, "in insula St. Pauli", leg. Langsdorff (LE).

Alopecurus glaucus Less., Linnaea 9: 206. 1834.

Alopecurus occidentalis Scribn. and Tweedy, Coult. Bot. Gaz. 11: 170. 1886.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 6–30 cm high; perennial herbs; not caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact; 1.5–2 mm wide. Ground level or underground stems scales present; surfaces striate, or grooved; 10–20 mm long; glabrous. Aerial stems erect. Leaves present; distributed along the stems; alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.8–1.5 mm long; membranous; glabrous; transversely oblong. Ligule apices truncate; erose. Leaves grass-like. Blades 10–65 mm long, 2–4 mm wide, spreading, rolled in bud, linear, flat (usually, often rolling on drying), veins parallel, midvein conspicuously larger than the lateral veins or midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface scabrous (or sparsely scaberulous). Blade abaxial surface glabrous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems solitary. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems culm nodes not exposed (in dwarfed arctic plants), or becoming exposed (in larger plants); number visible 0–1. Flag leaf sheaths inflated (compared with other arctic species; but described as "scarcely inflated" in Flora Europaea). Inflorescences paniculate; dense; oblong to ovate (very compact, so that it is compared to a fox’s tail in the common name); 0.5–3 cm long (with numerous, very short branches); 5–15 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis glabrous. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 2–4. Inflorescence primary branches 0.5–3 mm long; scabrous; with appressed secondary branches, or with spreading secondary branches (very short). Spikelets disarticulating at the base of the spikelet; oblong, or lanceolate, or ovate; 3–5(–6) mm long; 1–1.5(–1.7) mm wide. Florets per spikelet 1. Two glumes present. First glume 1 × the length of the second glume (approximately, equal or sub-equal); 1 × spikelet length; 3–6 mm long; lanceolate (to broadly acute); with trichomes (that are greyish hairs, prominent especially on the keel; margins fused at the base); margins ciliate; veins (2–)3(–4); apex acute. Second glume as long or longer than the spikelet; almost as long as, or longer than, the lowest floret; 3–6 mm long. Second glume broadly acute. Second glume long hairy; veins (2–)3(–4). Rachilla terminating in a well-formed floret. Lemma ovate to lanceolate; (2.7–)3–4(–5) mm long; keeled; surface dull; surface hairy (towards apex); surface with trichomes on and between the veins; veins 3–5; apex rounded to truncate; apex erose; apex ciliate; awned. Awn arising from below the apex but above the middle (exserted or remaining within the glumes, straight). Awn 0.3–0.7 mm long. Palea absent. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Stamens 3. Anthers 1.5–2.5 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 1.5–2 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 80, 98–130. The range of chromosome numbers may indicate agamospermy.

2n = about 80. Zhukova and Petrovsky (1980, western Chukotka).

2n = 98 two counts. Mitchell and McKendrick (in Brown 1975, Alaska, about 100, about 102, about 114); 2n = about 100. Hedberg (1967, northern Canada);

2n = 100. Sokolovskaya (1965);

2n = about 100. Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1976, western Chukotka); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia);

2n = more than 100. Sokolovskaya (1955, 1962); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960, 1962);

2n = 105, 112, 119. Bowden (1960b, North America);

2n = 110. Sokolovskaya (1963, northeastern Asia, Kamtch);

2n = 112. Holmen (1952, Greenland); Löve (1981a, northern Canada; Zhukova and Petrovsky (1987b, northeastern Asia); Jones (1959); 2n = 112, 112 + 3f. Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska, 2n = about 112);

2n = 114 + 2f, 112–130. Flovik (1938, 1940);

2n = 117. Mitchell and McKendrick (in Brown 1975, Britain);

2n = about 120. = Zhukova et al. (1973, northeastern Asia); Sokolovskaya (1968, northeastern Asia, Koryak);

2n = 119–122. (Johnsson (1941);

2n = 130. Sokolovskaya (1938, southern and northern Siberia).

Ploidy levels recorded more than 14x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. The vigour and height of plants of this species strongly reflect environmental conditions. On disturbed sites around towns in Southern Greenland, plants form dense clumps 30–45 cm high. In the coldest sectors of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, a plant forms a single culm 10–15 cm high in each growing season. The characteristic "foxtail" heads can be seen from a low-flying helicopter, and in sparsely vegetated areas on Melville Island, can be used to distinguish relatively dry tundra where it is growing from wetter Luzula areas.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: wet meadows, snow patches, around the margins of ponds, marshes, along streams, river terraces, lakeshores, tundra (e.g., Dryas), slopes (and grassy fields, plains, and plateau), ridges; imperfectly drained moist areas, solifluction slopes, dry (grassy environments, often near old camp sites), moderately well-drained areas; rocks (limestone), gravel, sand (sometimes coarse, on deltas or beaches), silt, clay, till, moss (in mossy cracks on patterned ground); peat (occasionally in peat bogs); acidic, or calcareous, or nitrophilous. This species occurs as a primary coloniser of disturbed sites with enhanced growth around snow-bed zones, solifluction lobes, animal burrows, bird colonies, and refuse dumps. While the map suggests this species is ubiquitous throughout the Arctic, it does not compete well in dense Low Arctic tundra. It becomes common, even dominant, in wetlands of the northwestern Queen Elizabeth Islands where it occurs on moderately to imperfectly drained silt and clay at nearly all elevations.

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. High Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Bathurst, Eglington, Emerald, Loughead, Mackenzie King, Melville, Prince Patrick), Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, Southampton, Coats (Digges, Mansel, Nottingham, Prince Charles, Sailsbury Islands, Boothia and Melville peninsulas and Port Burwell).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar (and bipolar). 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. The name A. magellanicus follows Soreng et al. (2003). Before that Alopecurus borealis Trin. was accepted as the valid name, this name replacing A. alpinus Sm. which is predated by A. alpinus D. Villars. (Stace 1997).

The species is a high polyploid, with very variable numbers reported (2n = 70 - about 150) and morphologically variable, with several entities described as species or subspecies. The name A. borealis may relate to a Beringian entity (slightly) different from the main plant in the Arctic (Elven, personal communication, 2005).

Porsild (1964), probably writing from his experiences in Greenland, suggested that this species is strongly nitrophilous, and with fertiliser and minimum cultivation, provides good grazing, yielding short but nourishing hay.

Bell and Bliss (1978) estimated that the roots of A. borealis live 3.4–7 years.

Illustrations. • Habitat: Baffin Island: Sylvia Grinnell Park. Plants growing in a patch beside a ditch in Sylvia Grinnell Park. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 1 August, 2005. No Voucher. • Habitat: Iqaluit. Plants growing in a runoff ditch adjacent to a sedge meadow. This is the only area in Iqaluit where this species is found. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Sylvia Grinnell Park. 1 August, 2005. No voucher. • Close-up of plants: Iqaluit. Compact heads of this species growing with the diffuse heads of Poa arctica. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Sylvia Grinnell Park. 1 August, 2005. No voucher. • Close-up of plants. Plants forming a sod around buildings and in places growing to 30 cm high. Plants very common in the hamlet, a contrast to Iqaluit where they are known in one location. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Pangnirtung. 10 August, 2006. Aiken. No voucher. • Habitat: Ellesmere. Plants growing in wet, highly calcareous silt as relatively isolated single stems. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Scoresby Bay, 7953'N, 7133'W. Aiken 98–022. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. Scale bar in cm. • Close-up of plants: Dorset. Lush stand of plants approaching 30 cm high with purplish heads and post-anthesis anthers. Similar stands common around the hamlet. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 4 August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Close-up of plants in gravel: Dorset. Isolated plants near the high tideline. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Plant habit. Foxtail heads with shrivelling yellow anthers and white stigmas. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay, tundra at Thule site. August, 1993. Aiken 93–082. Photograph by G. Steel. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Young inflorescence and flag leaf. Norway, Svalbard, Sassendalen. August, 1997. Photograph by R. Elven. • Close-up of inflorescence. Foxtail-like inflorescence with prominent stigmas in the foreground, and an inflorescence with fertile anthers in the background. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Scoresby Bay, 7953'N, 7133'W. Aiken 98–022. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Pressed spike. Inflorescence at anthesis. Note subequal glumes and lemmas with developing awns. Nunavut, Axel Heiberg Island. DAO 297741. • Close-up of panicle. Inflorescence at anthesis with brown anthers and white stigmas. Norway, Svalbard, Sassen, Noisdalen. 5 August, 1987. Photograph by R. Elven. • Type specimen. Type specimen of Alopecurus alpinus in flower. Scotland, Aberdeenshire near Invercauld, wet rocks in the west covy on the northwest sides of Lochnagar. August, 1779. R. Brown s.n. Holotype: BM. Photograph by L. Consaul. See discussion of this name in notes. • 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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