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 vahliana (Liebm.) Scribn. and Merr.

English: Vahl's alkali grass,

French: Puccinellie de Vahl,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 13: 78. 1910.

Type: Greenland: Niaqornat, Nugssuaq Peninsula, Umanak District, July 1836, leg. J.Vahl indicated by Sørensen (1953: 18) as 'type' of the original Flora Danica illustration. Holotype: C!

Synonymy. Poa vahliana Liebm., Fl. Dan. 14, 41: t. 2401. 1845.

Glyceria vahliana (Liebm.) Th. Fr., Öfvers. Förh. Kongl. Svenska Vetensk.-Akad. 26: 140. 1869.

Colpodium vahlianum (Liebm.) Nevski, in Komarov Fl. SSSR, 2: 436. 1934.

Phippsia vahliana (Liebm.) A. Löve and D. Löve, Bot. Not. 128: 501. [1975] 1976.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 5–14 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Roots white, or yellow (characteristically curly). Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal; alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 9–12 mm long; with smooth veins; lacking pronounced keels (i.e., not strongly folded at the prominent veins). Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.9–3 mm long (to 4.0 mm long in Greenland specimens); membranous; glabrous; ovate-oblong, or transversely oblong (rarely). Ligule apices acute, or obtuse; entire. Leaves grass-like. Blades 30–50 mm long, 1.2–4 mm wide (when folded), appressed to the stem or spreading, folded in bud, linear, without auricles (ligules decurrent), flat (usually, but tending to fold on drying), veins parallel, midvein conspicuously larger than the lateral veins, bulliform cells in distinct rows on either side of the midvein. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. 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 (very rarely a node may become exposed). Inflorescences paniculate (barely exserted at anthesis, but elongating later); dense; linear, or ovate (very variable); 2–4 cm long (0.9–5 cm long, Greenland specimens); 5–16 mm wide (to 22 mm wide, Greenland specimens). Inflorescences main axis glabrous. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 2–3. Inflorescence primary branches (4–)12–18(–25) mm long; glabrous; with appressed secondary branches, or with spreading secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate, or ovate; 3.8–6.5 mm long (3.2–7.5 mm in Greenland specimens); 1–4 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 2–3(–5). Two glumes present. First glume 0.77–1.1 × the length of the second glume (appearing sub-equal); 0.4–0.7 × spikelet length; 2–3.5 mm long; lanceolate; glabrous; margins glabrous, or scabrous (sometimes appearing minutely fringed under high magnification); veins 1(–3); apex acute, or obtuse ("sub-acute"). Second glume 0.4–0.9 × as long as the spikelet; shorter than the lowest floret; 2.4–4.1 mm long. Second glume ovate. Second glume glabrous, or with trichomes (most frequently small scattered trichomes); margins scabrous; veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets (slender, abruptly thickened at the insertion of the florets; surface of abscission layer disc-like); extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.5–1.1 mm long; internode 0.07–0.125 mm wide; internode glabrous. Callus differentiated; hairs 0.075–0.4 mm long. Lemma lanceolate (broadly); 3–5.2 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface hairy; surface with trichomes on and between the veins (densely in rows on the veins in lower half and also on inter-veins towards base of the lemma); veins (3–)5; apex acute; apex entire, or erose (with age); apex glabrous (generally); awnless. Palea well developed; 2.8–4.4 mm long; veins hairy (spinulose towards the apex, with long hairs towards the base). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers 1–1.6 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 1.7–2.2 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 14.

2n (2x) = 14. Flovik (1938, 1940, Svalbard); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Bowden (1961, northern Canada); Hedberg (1962, 1967, northern Canada); Mosquin and Hayley (1966).

Ploidy levels recorded 2x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. Puccinellia vahliana is often a pioneering species in moist calcareous clay and silt by alpine brooks, ephemeral lakes, glacier runoff streams, and on snowbeds.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: wet meadows (seasonally or at glacier fronts), snow patches, marshes (near salt marshes), along streams, river terraces, lakeshores, tundra, slopes, ridges, seashores (near, but above the influence of the tide); imperfectly drained moist areas, seepage slopes, dry (rarely); rocks, gravel, sand, silt, clay, moss; calcareous, or nitrophilous (occasionally found on owl perches). This is a common plant on the scantily vegetated moist tundra beside the road from Resolute airport to South Camp.

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. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Bathurst, Melville), Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Southampton (Ellelf Ringnes, Resolution, Savage, and Winter islands, Boothia and Melville peninsulas).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Atlantic, or North American. Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. This taxon was treated as Colpodium vahlianum (Liebm.) Nevski, in Porsild (1964). It was placed in the genus Puccinellia, subgenus Pseudocolpodium (Tzvelev) W.E. Hughes, by Hughes and Halliday (1980). This subgenus differs from subgenus Puccinellia in which all our other puccinellias are placed, in that the leaf epidermis is not differentiated into long and short cells, the rachilla is slender and abruptly thickened at the insertion of the florets, and the glumes, with divergent veins, are sub-equal, and almost as long as the lemma. It also differs from the other puccinellias observed in having leaves folded in bud, and bulliform cells on either side of the blade midvein.

Consaul and Gillespie (2001) found this species to be close morphologically to the rest of the genus, and agreed with including it in the genus Puccinellia. The characters that separate plants of this species most clearly from other Puccinellia taxa are the very long first glume and the ratio of first glume to spikelet length. This species generally does not have trichomes on the lemma margins, but usually has small (less than 20 microns) and blunt trichomes on the margins of the glumes. The roots of this species are strikingly yellowish, thick and curly. This is a character also found to a certain extent in the arctic polyploid species of the genus, giving more evidence for treating it under the genus Puccinellia.

Illustrations. • Habitat. Plants growing on flood plain of calcareous gravel and silt. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, at Scoresby Bay, 79°53'N, 71°33'W. Aiken 98–008. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of plant. Plant growing on flood plain of calcareous gravel and silt. Note young inflorescence lying close to the ground and starting to become erect. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Scoresby Bay, 79°53'N, 71°33'W. Aiken 98–008. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of plant. Compact plant with young pre-inflorescences lying close to the ground and wet from a heavy fog. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay, near Thule site. Photographed by G. Steel. • Close-up of plant in laboratory. Same plant as in previous picture 24 hours after it had been brought into a warm laboratory setting. Inflorescence branches are becoming erect and spreading with some florets approaching anthesis. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay, collected near Thule site. Photographed by G. Steel. • Diagnostic curly white roots. Plants dissected to show the diagnostic curly white roots. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay, Thule site. Photographed by G. Steel. • Close-up of inflorescence. Note some spikelets at anthesis. Lemmas purplish towards the base with a wide transparent margin towards the apex and with relatively long anthers. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Scoresby Bay, 79°53'N, 71°33'W. Aiken 98–008. Photograph by Mollie MacCormac. • Isotype specimen. Part of the type collection for the name Glyceria vahliana. Greenland. Niakornak pr. Umarak. July, 1836. J. Vahl s.n. (Isotype: CAN). • Spikelet drawing. From Sorensen (1953). Reproduced with permission from Meddeleser om Grønland. • Close-up of lemma apex. Lemma apex with somewhat erose margin without trichomes. As seen at 100X magnification. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Craig Harbour. J.D. Soper 111374. 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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