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 vaginata (Lange) Fernald and Weath.

English: Tussock alkali grass, Sheathed alkali grass,

French: Puccinelle engainante,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Rhodora 18: 14. 1916.

Type: Greenland: "in arenosis in propinquitate littoris territorii colon. Umanak", 07.1836, leg. J.Vahl. Indicated as holotype by Sørensen (1953: 46). Holotype: C!

Synonymy. Glyceria vaginata Lange, Fl. Dan. 15, fasc. 44: [3](-4), t. 2583. 1858.

Phippsia vaginata (Lange) Á. Löve and D. Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 500. 1976.

Puccinellia vaginata (Lange) Fernald and Weath. var. paradoxa T.J.Sørensen, Meddel. Grønland 136, 3: 47. 1953.

Puccinellia rosenkrantzii T.J.Sørensen, Meddel. Grønland 136, 3: 33. 1953.

Phippsia rosenkrantzii (T.J.Sørensen) Á.Löve and D.Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 500. 1976.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 6–30(–40) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect, or decumbent. Leaves distributed along the stems (tall plants), or mainly basal (short plants); alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 12–30 mm long; with scabrous veins; with pronounced keels. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous (or slightly papillate); sheath collars present. Ligules present; 1–3 mm long; membranous; glabrous; ovate-oblong, or transversely oblong. Ligule apices acute, or obtuse, or truncate; entire, or lacerate. Leaves grass-like. Blades 10–60 mm long, 0.5–1.6 mm wide (when rolled), spreading, rolled in bud, linear, without auricles (ligules decurrent), involute, veins parallel, midvein conspicuously larger than the lateral veins or midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface glabrous or scabrous. 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 (in short plants), or becoming exposed (in taller plants); number visible 0–1. Flag leaf sheaths inflated, or not inflated. Inflorescences paniculate; dense, or diffuse; lanceolate, or ovate (loosely), or pyramidal (exserted 1/3–1/2 the length of the culm axis); (3–)6–12(–14) cm long; 30–125 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis glabrous (or sparsely scaberulous). Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1–3. Inflorescence primary branches 10–55 mm long; glabrous, or scabrous; with appressed secondary branches, or with spreading secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate, or ovate; (3–)5–8 mm long; 1.1–2.6 mm wide. Florets per spikelet (2–)4–5(–6). Two glumes present. First glume 0.5–0.8 × the length of the second glume; 0.1–0.4 × spikelet length; (0.9–)1.3–2.1 mm long; lanceolate, or ovate; glabrous; margins scabrous (appearing minutely fringed under high magnification); veins 1; apex acute. Second glume 0.4 × as long as the spikelet or less; shorter than the lowest floret; 1.3–2.6(–3.4) mm long. Second glume ovate. Second glume with trichomes (on margin, visible at 10×); margins scabrous; veins 3 (obscure). Rachilla pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.5–1.2 mm long; internode 0.07–0.175 mm wide; internode glabrous. Callus differentiated; hairs 0.15–0.28 mm long. Lemma obovate (broadly obovate); 2.6–3.8 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface hairy; surface with trichomes on and between the veins (in lower quarter of the lemmas, the hairs short and sparse, predominantly on the veins); veins 3–5; apex rounded (or obliquely truncate); apex entire, or erose (minutely); apex scabrous. Length of trichomes more than 25 um (evenly spaced, spinulose trichomes). Lemma awnless. Palea well developed; 2.3–3.8 mm long; veins scabrous. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers 0.7–1.2 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 1.7–1.9 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 42 and 56.

2n (6x) = 42. Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska);

2n (8x) = 56. Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Bowden (1961); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Zhukova (1967a, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1975, western Chukotka); Löve and Löve (1981a, northern Canada); Probatova and Sokolovskaya (1984b, northeastern Asia).

Ploidy levels recorded 6x/8x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. This taxon is generally found on clay by the seashore. Porsild (1964) also reports that it forms large tussocks near human habitations and bird cliffs. Cody collected a large specimen in the Yukon from a moist ditch at the Parks Canada Headquarters, beside a fox den in 1999, and in 1999, it was collected at Tanquary Fiord by Consaul and Gillespie, the most northern locality known in 2003.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: river terraces, tundra, slopes, seashores; imperfectly drained moist areas; sand, clay. Growing on marine sediments along the shore and on eroding, raised marine sediments inland. In the Low Arctic it forms large tussocks near bird cliffs and human habitations. It is relatively rare in the High Arctic.

North American distribution. Occurring in North America, Greenland, eastern Siberia and Cape Lamanon, Russia; the distribution is not continuous. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Uncommon. High Arctic (rare), Low Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Ellesmere, Parry islands (Melville), Victoria, Southampton.

Northern hemisphere distribution. North American, or Siberian. Anabar–Olenyok, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Sørensen (1953) observed that plants of P. vaginata are remarkable for their soft texture, large drooping panicles, which are just exserted above the slightly inflated, uppermost culm leaf sheaths, and by the relatively large, loose, and conspicuously glossy spikelets.

Grulke and Bliss (1988), in a study of comparative life history characteristics of two High Arctic grasses, noted that Puccinellia vaginata occurs in xeric micro-sites with little soil disturbance. Drought stress that reduced whole plant biomass of Phippsia, the species that P. vaginata was being compared with, affected only seedlings of the latter species. Root biomass remained constant.

Grulke and Bliss (1988) found that P. vaginata was relatively long-lived (living on average 35 years and a maximum of 74 years). They noted that the mean age of initial reproduction was relatively late when compared to temperate species, that is, 26 ± 9 years. Production of viable seeds in P. vaginata was restricted by short growing seasons, low solar radiation, and low temperatures. During stressful years, P. vaginata usually had low carbon allocation to reproduction, and low rates of mortality. Grulke and Bliss (1988) concluded that P. vaginata has most characteristics of a stress-tolerant species. Bell and Bliss (1978) estimated that the roots of P. vaginata live 3.4–7 years.

Consaul and Gillespie (2001) found the species has been more frequently collected in Greenland (from where it was originally described), and in the western continental Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but very few specimens of P. vaginata had been collected in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Some of the specimens from the islands have intermediate characteristics, for example, specimens from Baffin Island (CAN 312013 and CAN 295761) are very hairy, and approach P. angustata in morphology. A specimen from Melville Island (CAN 502596) and one from Victoria Island (CAN 522664) have smaller trichomes on the glume and lemma margins than are typical for P. vaginata, and more approach P. bruggemannii. These specimens, as well as a collection from Tanquary Fiord, are indicated on the map. They are included in a current molecular study on species limits of Canadian Arctic Puccinellia at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Illustrations. • Habitat. Dominant species on seashore mudflats. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 79°26'N, 75°38'W. Aiken 98–028. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Habitat. Foreground plants growing in a moist depression that fills with snow melt water in the spring. The area is densely matted with grasses, mosses and sedges. The bare surface areas are white with salt crust. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Tanquary Camp, 81°24'N, 76°52'W. 25 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2188 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Surface view of plant. Top, plant surrounded by salt crust with young inflorescences lying parallel to the ground. Scale bar in cm. Bottom, inflorescences showing main stem becoming erect and branches beginning to spread before anthesis. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Tanquary Camp, 81°24'N, 76°52'W. 25 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2188 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescence. Pre-anthesis spikelets closely appressed to the stem. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Franklin Pierce Bay, 79°26'N, 75°38'W. Aiken 98–028. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of inflorescence. Inflorescence, about 12 cm long, lying parallel to the ground. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Tanquary Camp, 81°24'N, 76°52'W. 25 July, 1999. L.L. Consaul 2188 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Spikelet drawing. Sorensen (1953). Reproduced with permission from Meddeleser om Grønland. • Close-up of lemma apex. Apex of lemma with a scabrous margin of evenly spaced spinulose trichomes. As seen at 100X magnification. Greenland, Tariuak. T. Wielf, s.n. CAN. • Close-up of glume apex. Second glume apex, scabrous margin with evenly spaced spinulose trichomes. As seen at 100X magnification. Greenland, Tariuak. T. Wielf, s. n. CAN. • 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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