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

Pedicularis capitata Adams

French: Pédicularie capiée,

Inuktitut: Kukiujait.

Scrophulariaceae, Fernweed family.

Published in Mém. Soc. Imp. Naturalistes Moscou 5: 100. 1817.

Type: Described from northern Siberia: "in insulis ad ostium Lena".

Vegetative morphology. Plants (2–)5–15 cm high; perennial herbs; not caespitose. Only fibrous roots present (sometimes a vertical caudex may look like a taproot). Ground level or underground stems horizontal, or vertical. Caudex present (slender and branched, often not extensively present on herbarium specimens). Aerial stems erect. Aerial stem trichomes present; spreading. Leaves present; heterophyllous; mainly basal; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Petioles present (basal leaves), or absent (near the inflorescence); (5–)10–35(–60) mm long; not winged; hairy; villous, or woolly. Petiole hairs shorter than the diameter of the petiole; spreading; floccose. Leaf blades simple (pinnately divided, with 10–20, oblanceolate, divisions (3.5-)4–6(-7) mm long and (1.5-)3–6(-8) mm wide). Leaf blade bases truncate. Blades (8–)15–40(–50) mm long, (7–)8–12(–15) mm wide, spreading, straight, lanceolate, flat, veins pinnate. Blade adaxial surface glabrous or hairy, hairs puberulent (if applicable), hairs simple, hairs sparse or moderately dense, hairs white, or translucent. Blade abaxial surface glabrous or hairy (especially on the veins), hairs puberulent, hairs sparse, hairs white, hairs straight, hairs appressed or spreading. Blades cut into linear divisions. Blade margins crenate or dentate, glabrous or with non-glandular hairs; apices acute, or obtuse.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems without leaves (between the basal tuft of leaves and those subtending the capitate inflorescence). Flowering stems hairy. Flowering stems woolly. Flowering stem hairs simple (floccose); shorter than the diameter of the flowering stem; white or translucent; glandular hairs absent. Inflorescences spicate and head-like; terminal; dense; globose or sub-globose (capitate, like a cap on the top of the flowering stem); 2–3(–4) cm long; (18–)25–35 mm wide; not elongating as the fruit matures. Pedicels present, or absent (often inconspicuous; flowers borne in the axils of leaves similar to the basal leaves, but smaller). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Sepals conventional; 5; fused (in the lower half); 10.5–13 mm wide; green and black (or dark red purplish on the margins at the apex). Calyx bell-shaped; 5-lobed; glabrous (predominantly), or hairy (leaves associated with the inflorescence often more hairy). Calyx hairs puberulent (if applicable); non-glandular; white or translucent. Petals conventional; fused; 5; yellow (creamy); with contrasting markings (often with some pale peach colouration on the helmet); 15–30 mm long (helmet petals that are much longer than the lower petals). Corolla bilabiate; 2-lobed (helmet), or 3-lobed (lip or landing petal); helmet not prolonged into a long beak; helmet with 2 small teeth at the apex (poorly developed), or without 2 small teeth at the apex. Stamens 4; stamen filaments markedly unequal in length (so that the anthers lie in pairs close together, towards the end of the helmet and often appearing as two dark spots in the helmet of pressed flowers); stamen filaments glabrous; free of the corolla. Anthers yellow; ellipsoid; 3–3.5 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 2; syncarpous. Ovaries inverse turnip-shaped; glabrous. Styles 1; 25–30 mm long; straight. Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary numerous: 13–90. Fruit sessile (sub-sessile), or stalked (with a short stalk); with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; elongate-cylindrical, or urceolate; yellowish, or straw-coloured; 10–15 mm long; 4–6 mm wide; hairy; distinctly flattened; dehiscent; opening at the apex and partially or fully down one side. Seeds relatively few and large; 0.5–0.6 mm long; black.

Chromosome information. 2n = 16.

(2n) (2x) = 16. Zhukova (1966, 1980, 1982, northeastern Asia); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska).

Ploidy levels recorded 2x.

Indigenous knowledge. An Inuit name is kukiujait, meaning that which resembles your fingernail. Inuit people call these plants bananas (in English), claiming that the flowers look a bit like that fruit. They eat the corollas after pulling them off the flowers and enjoy their sweet sugary taste (Mallory and Aiken 2004).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: river terraces, tundra (or heath), slopes, ridges, dry meadows, barrens; imperfectly drained moist areas, dry, moderately well-drained areas; gravel, sand; with low organic content, with high organic content; calcareous. Wet tundra (CAN 97426); in turfy organic accumulation (CAN 485422); dry gravel bars (CAN 255698); Dryas-sedge meadow (CAN 320141); raised river terraces well-drained sand and gravel (CAN 518554).

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. Arctic and alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, Southampton (Bylot, Coats, Mill islands, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar (with a gap in northern Europe). 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.

General notes. Polunin (1940) stated that this is an attractive and quite unmistakable species, even if in our area it varies in the size of the corolla and number of flowers to the inflorescence. Large plants may be 15 cm high, but in the far north plants are usually 5–6 cm high. However, a specimen collected by General Greely, from Northern Ellesmere Island in the Gray herbarium, is robust and nearly 10 cm high. Polunin (1940) considered this species ‘western’ in affinity like P. sudetica, but noted that P. capitata has spread farther than the later species and occurs in northwest Greenland and southwest Baffin.

Williams and Batzlli (1982) found P. capitata to be a mid-season blooming species of Pedicularis that when compared with four other species in a study done in Alaska had relatively few flowers, and thus few seeds per shoot, even though nectar production and pollination success were high.

Illustrations. • Herbarium specimen. Plant with a slender branching underground caudex. CAN 97427. • Habitat. Plants growing in moist sand with Kobresia and Dryas. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. Aiken 99–051. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Habitat. Plants growing through arctic willow, with Bistorta vivipara. Note dark spots in the helmet petals where two pairs of anthers, with filaments of different lengths, are lying side by side. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. July 27, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18890. CAN. • Close-up of plants. New season's growth with plants 2–3 cm high growing up through Dryas. Note flowering heads in bud on short flowering stem and leaves near the inflorescence. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. Aiken 99–051. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescences. Buds beginning to flower. Note flowering stems are longer than in previous picture, leaves associated with the inflorescence have crenate or dentate margins, calyx sepals have more or less entire dark reddish margins. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. Aiken 99–051. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescences. Three flowers with long styles protruding from the tip of the two fused helmet petals and the three lobes, each representing a petal in the landing platform. Each style has a capitate, receptive stigma. Nunavut, Axel Heiberg Island, Mokka Fiord. 17 July, 1996. L.J. Gillespie 6104 and C. Vogel. CAN. • Close-up of flower. The right-hand flower has arched helmet petals. Where the style protrudes, a small tooth at the apex can be seen. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. Aiken 99–051. 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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