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

Puccinellia angustata (R. Br.) E.L. Rand and Redfield

English: Tall alkali grass, narrow-leaved alkali grass,

French: Puccinellie etroite,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Fl. of Mount Desert Island, Maine, 181. 1894.

Type: Canada: Melville Island, 1819–1820, Mr. (J.) Edwards on W.E. Parry's first voyage. Holotype: BM! Isotype: CAN!

Synonymy. Poa angustata R. Br., Chlor. Melvill. 29. 1823.

Glyceria angustata (R. Br.) Fr., Nov. Fl. Suec. Mant. 3: 176. 1843.

Phippsia angustata (R. Br.) A. Löve and D. Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 498. 1975 [1976].

Vegetative morphology. Plants 10–35 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect, or decumbent. Leaves mainly basal; alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 4–12 mm long; with scabrous veins (delicate trichomes scabrescent to glabrescent); lacking pronounced keels (but with prominent veins). Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; (0.8–)1–3(–4) mm long (Sørensen, 1953); membranous; glabrous; ovate-oblong, or transversely oblong (occasionally). Ligule apices acuminate, or acute, or obtuse, or truncate; entire. Leaf blades simple. Leaves grass-like. Blades 14–160 mm long, 0.5–1.2 mm wide (when rolled), appressed to the stem or spreading, rolled in bud, linear, without auricles (ligules decurrent), flat or involute, veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface glabrous (observed to be nearly glabrous with a few scabrous prickles, Sørensen 1955). Blade abaxial surface glabrous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems culm nodes not exposed (usually), or becoming exposed; number visible 0–1. Flag leaf sheaths inflated, or not inflated (sheath longer than the blade). Inflorescences paniculate; dense, or diffuse; lanceolate (erect); (4–)5–8.5(–10) cm long; 4–9(–20) mm wide. Inflorescences main axis glabrous, or scabrous (sparsely). Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 2–5 (often one with a solitary spikelet). Inflorescence primary branches 6–60 mm long; scabrous (sometimes sparsely so); with appressed secondary branches (usually), or with spreading secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; ovate; (4–)5–8.5 mm long; 1.1–2.9 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 3–4(–6). Two glumes present. First glume 0.5–0.85 × the length of the second glume; 0.22–0.4 × spikelet length; 1.5–2.8 mm long; lanceolate, or ovate; glabrous; margins scabrous (appearing minutely fringed under high magnification); veins 1(–2); apex acute. Second glume 0.4 × as long as the spikelet or less; shorter than the lowest floret, or almost as long as, or longer than, the lowest floret; 2.2–4.2 mm long. Second glume oblong, or elliptic. Second glume glabrous, or with trichomes (appearing minutely fringed under high magnification); margins scabrous; veins 3 (lateral veins indistinct). Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.8–1.5 mm long; internode 0.06–0.25 mm wide; internode glabrous. Callus differentiated; hairs 0.1–0.5 mm long. Lemma ovate, or lanceolate; 3.4–5.2 mm long; rounded on the back (margins straight, thinner in texture than the body of the lemma); lemma not strongly inrolled; surface dull; surface hairy; surface with trichomes on and between the veins (copiously pilose in their lower half of the veins, between veins finely pilose at base); veins 4–5; apex acute, or rounded; apex entire, or erose; apex glabrous (very rarely), or scabrous (fringed with small acute trichomes less than 25 micrometres in length). Length of trichomes less than 25 um. Lemma awnless. Palea well developed; 2.5–4.8 mm long; veins hairy. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers (0.6–)0.8–1.1(–1.5) mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 1.6–2.4 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 42.

2n = 42. Flovik (1938, 1940, Svalbard); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Sokolovskaya (1955); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Bowden (1961); Hedberg (1962, 1967, northern Canada); Zhukova (1965b, northeastern Asia); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1971, Chukotka); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1972, Wrangel Island); Cayoutte and Blouneau (1996).

Ploidy levels recorded 6x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. As an early coloniser this taxon is often indicative of unstable or recently disturbed environments such as land slides, clay deposits near the mouth of a river, or gravel in a river flood plain. Larger plants may be indicative of additional nutrients reaching the habitat from anthropogenic disturbances near buildings or animal activities around owl perches or lemming burrows. Plants may grow as a sand binder in loose sand and avoid being buried.

This species was reported to be non-littoral Porsild (1957, 1964). Sørensen (1955) reports that it is probably not even halophilous. However, some plants of this species have been collected along the coast on Ellesmere Island, e.g., at Tanquary Fiord (Consaul and Gillespie 2001).

It has been observed that specimens of P. angustata flower profusely in greenhouse conditions (personal observations, 1999–2000).

When specimens of many Puccinellia species brought from the arctic were grown in greenhouses at Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, and watered with fresh water only, they grew very well. This suggested that most species may be salt tolerant but not obligate halophiles (Consaul and Gillespie, 2001).

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Ecology and habitat. Substrates: river terraces, tundra (e.g., goose meadows), slopes (e.g., colonising landslides), ridges, cliffs (sometimes found near margins of glacier moraines), seashores (occasionally, on fiords); imperfectly drained moist areas, dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks (on weathered shales, CAN 407205), gravel, sand, silt, clay, till; calcareous (on carbonates), or halophytic (occasionally found at the coast (Tanquary Fiord, 1999), and quite abundant near perennial salt springs at Expedition Fiord, Axel Heiberg Island), or nitrophilous (Thule sites or under bird cliffs).

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, Nunavut Islands. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. High Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Bathurst, Prince Patrick), Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria (Ellef Ringnes, Loughead Islands, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar. Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay (?), Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. In the Canadian records this is the most commonly collected species on the Arctic islands. Cayouette and Blondeau, 1996, recorded the occurrence of P. angustata s.s. in Nunavik (northern Quebec).

Sørensen (1953) suggested that although variation in this taxon is considerable, he did not consider it justified to recognise more than one entity. Elven et al. (2003) drew attention to Puccinellia angustata (R.Br.) E.L. Rand and Redfield var. decumbens Jørg. ex T.J. Sørensen, Meddel. Grønl. 136, 3: 30. 1953, based on the type from Svalbard: Spitsbergen, Advent Bay, East side, 21.07.1896, leg. E. Jørgensen (O, C). They noted that this variety is fairly distinct even where it co-occurs with the type variety in Svalbard. Jørgensen did not publish the name (only noted it on herbarium labels), so the correct citation is probably 'Jørg. ex T.J. Sørensen'.

This species usually grows in clay or silt environments. The centre of the plant often has somewhat erect stems, while the outer culms of a clump are generally prostrate. In loose, windblown, riverbank sand, such as found along the MacDonald River Delta near Tanquary Fiord on Ellesmere Island, plants were found that were almost completely erect, possibly as a response to being slowly buried by sand.

The character states that have been used to key out this species have differed, depending on the author. Sørensen (1953) used the character lemmas erose-ciliolate; Porsild and Cody (1980) describe the lemmas as tapering, commonly with hyaline tips. Consaul and Gillespie (2001) described and illustrated small, acuminate trichomes, which render the margins of the glumes and lemmas scabrous or scaberulous.

Sørensen (1955) considered P. bruggemannii easily mistaken for stunted P. angustata, but indicated that they differ in leaf epidermal characters, indicating that P. angustata usually has stomates and P. bruggemannii does not. In Consaul's (2002–2006) systematic study of arctic Puccinellia, stomates were not examined because Tzvelev (1964) noted a lot of within-species variation in this character. Variation in this character should be examined after the species limits have been clarified. Consaul and Gillespie (2001) found that specimens of P. bruggemannii can usually be distinguished from P. angustata on size characters.

Illustrations. • Three grasses at Eureka. Three grasses growing close together on clay substrate near a stream. Poa hartzii (near knife), Poa abbreviata (top) and Puccinellia angustata (bottom). Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Eureka weather station. August, 1991. • Close-up of plant. Plant growing in silt with small rocks, pebbles, and a yellowish white deposit at surface. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Hazen Camp, Blister Hill, 81°49'N, 71°20'W. 23 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2176 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Close-up of large plant with erect inflorescences. Plant growing in loose pebbles and sand of a river bank. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Tanquary Camp, south shore of MacDonald River Delta, 81°24'N, 76°52'W. 21 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2154 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Habitat. Plants growing on dry calcareous sandy silt. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 79°26'N, 75°37'W. Aiken 98–029. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Habit. Plants growing on dry calcareous sandy silt. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 79°26'N, 75°37'W. Aiken 98–029. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of inflorescence. Pre-anthesis inflorescence with appressed spikelets. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Tanquary Camp, 81°24'N, 76°52'W. 21 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2154 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Spikelet drawing. Puccinellia angustata with lemma margins that are straight, thinner than the body and not incurved. (Sørensen 1953). Drawing reproduced with permission from Meddeleser om Grønland. • Close-up of lemma apex. Lemma apex with a sparsely scaberulous margin of small trichomes (less than 25 micrometers long) unevenly spaced along the edge. Part of the apex on the left is folded over, but the trichomes can still be seen. As seen at 100x). Axel Heiberg Island, Expedition Fiord. Gillespie and Vogel 6112. CAN. • Holotype specimen. Melville Island, 1819–1820, Mr. J. Edwards on W.E. Parry's First Voyage. Other text on label: "Puccinellia angustata (R. Br.) Nash. Poa angustata R. Br. in Parry Journ. Voy. Discov. NW Pass. Suppl. 28 (1824)!". (Holotype: BM). • 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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