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

Calamagrostis purpurascens R. Br.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in In Franklin, Narr. Journey Shores Polar Sea, Bot. Appendix 731. 1823.

Type: Canada. N.W.T.: "the Barren Grounds from Point Lake to the Arctic Sea," 1821, J. Richardson s.n. (Holotype: K (not located October 1994, probable portion of type GH!)).

Synonymy. Arundo purpurascens (R.Br.) Schult., Mantissa 3 (Addit. 1): 603. 1827.

Deyeuxia purpurascens (R.Br.) Kunth, R‚vision Gram. 1: 77. 1829.

Calamagrostis arundinacea (L.) Roth f. purpurascens Gelert, in Ostenf. Fl. Arctica 1: 103. 1902.

Calamagrostis arundinacea (L.) Roth var. purpurascens A.E. Porsild, Meddel. Grønl. 47: 261. 1910.

Calamagrostis sylvatica var. americana Vasey, Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 3: 83. 1892. Type: U.S.A. Colorado: Pen. Gulch, Vasey in 1884.

Calamagrostis purpurascens var. maltei Polunin, Bull. Natl. Mus. Canada 94 (Biol. Ser. 24): 51. 1940. Type: Canada. Nunavut: Baffin Island, Eclipse Sound, 15 Aug. 1927, M.O. Malte (Holotype: CAN!).

Further synonymy in Greene (1980).

Vegetative morphology. Plants 20–70 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose (loosely usually, or more tightly when plants are stunted and growing in poor habitats). Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact; 1–2 mm wide. Ground level or underground stems scales present; surfaces striate; 6–12 mm long; glabrous. Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal; alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous, or with trichomes; hirsute, or scabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 2.6–5 mm long (upper leaves have longer ligules); membranous; hairy (puberulent on the abaxial surface); lanceolate. Ligule apices acute, or obtuse; erose, or lacerate. Leaves grass-like. Blades 30–300 mm long, 2–8 mm wide (when flat), appressed to the stem or spreading, rolled in bud, linear, flat or involute, veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface scabrous. Blade abaxial surface scabrous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems with leaves; culm nodes not exposed, or becoming exposed; culm nodes number visible 0–3. Inflorescences paniculate; dense; linear (compact), or pyramidal (narrowly); 3.5–10.5 cm long; 10–20 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis scabrous. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 2–4. Inflorescence primary branches 1.5–10(–40) mm long; scabrous; with appressed secondary branches, or with spreading secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 5–6.7 mm long; 1–3 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 1. Two glumes present (sub-equal). First glume 0.9–1 × the length of the second glume; 0.95–1 × spikelet length; 4.9–6.3 mm long; lanceolate; with trichomes (particularly on midvein, sparsely over rest of surface); margins glabrous, or ciliate (minutely); veins 1; apex acuminate. Second glume as long or longer than the spikelet; almost as long as, or longer than, the lowest floret; 5–6 mm long. Second glume lanceolate. Second glume with trichomes (scaberulous); veins 3. Rachilla extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 1.8–2.1 mm long; internode hairy. Callus differentiated; hairs 1–1.4 mm long; hairs shorter than the floret. Lemma lanceolate; 4–5(–6) mm long; keeled (slightly); surface dull; surface sparsely scabrous; surface with trichomes on and between the veins (very short); veins 5; apex acute, or rounded; apex bifid; apex glabrous; awned. Awn arising from the middle or below. Awn 4.5–8 mm long. Palea well developed; 3.5–4.1 mm long; veins scabrous (sparse, minute trichomes). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers 2.2–2.5 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 2–2.5 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 28,40–58, 84.

2n (4x) = 28. Tateoka (1954); Bowden (1960a); Sokolovskaya (1963, northeastern Asia, Kamtch); Zhukova (1967a, northeastern Asia); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1975, Chukotka); Sokolovskaya and Probatova (1977, northeastern Asia); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978, eastern Chukotka); Greene (1980, eastern North America);

2n = 40–58.

2n = 42. Bowden (1960a); Taylor and Brockman (1966, western Canada); Zhukova (1969, 2n = 42 for C. purpurascens); Zhukova (1980, southern Chukotka; 1982, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1971, Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1977, northeastern Asia); Sokolovskaya and Probatova (1977, northeastern Asia); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978); 1982, northern Siberia, eastern Chukotka); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1980, western Chukotka);

2n = 56. Böcher and Larsen (1950, Greenland); Stebbins in Jørgensen et al. (1958);

2n = 40–58. Nygren (1954b, western North America, 1957); Greene (1980, eastern North America);

2n = 58. Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Zhukova (1969, 2n = 58 for C. arctica);

2n (12x) = 84. Bowden (1960a, Alaska).

Some counts probably only for the collective species.

Ploidy levels recorded 4x-12x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. Species indicative of dry, calcareous soils.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: lakeshores, tundra, slopes; dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks, gravel, sand, silt; calcareous. Growing on rocky slopes and well-drained sandy soils.

North American distribution. This taxon occurs in Greenland, eastern and northern Siberia, and Alaska but not in northern Europe. In Canada, as well as occurring on the Arctic islands, it occurs in the Mackenzie District, the Ungava, Gasp‚ Peninsula, north shore of Lake Superior, and northern Manitoba. It should be looked for on southern Ellesmere and Devon Islands.

Greene (1980) suggested that its disjunct distribution in widely separated places across eastern North America may be a consequence of this species preference for calcareous soils. Wynne-Edwards (1937) advanced this ecological explanation in response to the contention by Fernald (1925) that such distributions are the result of the survival of plants on nunataks during glaciation. It seems likely, as suggested by Kawano (1965), that C. purpurascens achieved its present distribution in eastern North America by migrating soon after the retreat of the Wisconsin glaciers (Greene 1980). Alaska ('arctica' and 'purpurascens'), Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut (probably only 'purpurascens'), northern Quebec ('laricina'). Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Uncommon. Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Melville), Banks, Victoria.

Northern hemisphere distribution. North American, or Siberian. Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Elven et al. (2003) noted that Tzvelev considered that the C. purpurascens aggregate "includes species C. arctica, C. maltei, C. poluninii, C. purpurascens, and C. sesquiflora. The aggregate contains sexual tetraploids both in Asia and North America, in C. purpurascens s.s. and in C. sesquiflora, and probably apomictic hexaploids, octoploids, and possibly decaploids." The plants with higher chromosome numbers are probably agamospermic but whether these are auto-polyploids, allo-polyploids, or the product of a combination of these is unknown.

If the entities could be documented as morphologically and geographically definable parts of an agamic complex, recognition at some taxonomic level would be relevant. Soreng et al. (2003) follow this up by recognition of the tetraploid Beringian C. sesquiflora (also including C. arctica).

Greene (1980) analysed the variation in both morphology and cytology of North American taxa. He found reasons to divide C. purpurescens into two varieties only, var. purpurascens (including C. maltei and C. yukonensis Nash) and var. laricina (including C. poluninii). Greene did not, however, consider the Beringian (American) plants.

The two taxa are distinguished by a few characters, but they are largely allopatric. Both reach the Arctic area; var. purpurascens in Alaska, north mainland NWT, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and central and northern Greenland, and var. laricina in north mainland NWT, the Ungava area, and southwestern Greenland (as C. poluninii).

Illustrations. • Habitat. Plants growing on dry barren slopes with scattered rock and pebble. Note leaves mainly basal. Purple inflorescences compact and paniculate. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Lake Hazen, lower east facing slopes of Blister Hill. 24 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2178 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. Photograph by L. Gillespie. • Close-up of plant. Inflorescences approaching anthesis. Awns were not very geniculate when the plants were fresh, but much more so when they were dried. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Lake Hazen, lower east facing slopes of Blister Hill. 24 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2178 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Close-up of inflorescence. Inflorescences at anthesis with anthers exposed. Note lemmas with long awns that are straight when the flowers are in anthesis and become geniculate either as the fruit develops or upon drying for herbarium voucher. Inflorescence also closes up upon drying. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Lake Hazen, lower east facing slopes of Blister Hill. 24 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2178 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Drawing. Compact inflorescence. Close-up of spikelet with glumes longer than the lemma from which the geniculate awn arises, and the palea which is as long or longer than the lemma. Drawing from the CMN Photo Library S74–1075. • Type specimen. Note label "Richardson's journey", which probably refers to the 1820–1822 exploration Richardson did with Franklin. N.W.T. (Houston 1985). On one packet is the text: "sea coast of the arctic region, Hooker". C.W. Greene in 1980 annotated the specimen as "probably fragment of type from Kew" in 1980. Probably Isotype: GH. • 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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