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

Chrysosplenium tetrandrum (N. Lund ex Malmgren) Th. Fr.

English: Golden saxifrage, northern golden saxifrage,

French: Dorine à quatre étamines.

Saxifragaceae, Saxifrage family.

Published in Bot. Not. 193. 1858.

Type: Described from Northern Norway: Tana.

Synonymy. Chrysosplenium alternifolium L. var. tetrandrum N. Lund ex Malmgren, Bot. Not. 1846: 39. 1846.

Chrysosplenium alternifolium L. subsp. tetrandrum (N. Lund ex Malmgren) A. Blytt and O.C. Dahl, Haandb. Norges Fl. 411. 1902–06. 1904.

Chrysosplenium alternifolium L. subsp. tetrandrum (Th.Fr.) Hultén, Fl. Aleutian Isl. 217. 1937.

Chrysosplenium rosendahlii Packer, Canad. J. Bot. 41: 89. 1963.

Vegetative morphology. Plants (1.5–)3–10 cm high (to 15 cm high occasionally, CAN 259186); perennial herbs. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous; compact. Caudex absent. Aerial stems erect, or decumbent. Leaves present; not heterophyllous; mainly basal and distributed along the stems; erect; alternate; marcescent. Petioles present, or absent; (0–)0.2–2.5 mm long (lower leaves with petioles, upper leaves with short petioles or sessile); glabrous. Leaf blades simple. Leaf blade bases cordate, or truncate (commonly), or obtuse (below the inflorescence). Leaves not grass-like. Blades 3–12(–17) mm long, 6–15(–20) mm wide, circular or reniform, flat, with inconspicuous veins. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blades lobed (with 3–7 shallow lobes). Blade margins entire, glabrous. Hydathodes absent. Blade apices rounded.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant; with leaves. Inflorescences without bulbils; cymose, or head-like (flowers small, inconspicuous, and clustered in the axils of upper leaves); 0.5–3 cm long. Pedicels absent. Flowers per inflorescence 2–6(–18); small. Sepals conventional; 4; free; 1–2 mm long; 1.2–2 mm wide; yellow, or green. Calyx glabrous. Petals absent. Stamens 4–8. Anthers 0.3–0.4 mm long. Nectaries present. Receptacle 1–2 mm high. Ovary inferior; carpels 2; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles absent. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary 25–50. Fruit with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; spherical, or ellipsoid, or ovoid (the tops of the carpels looking like two horns); black, or brown, or purple, or green at maturity (or the same colour as leaves that turn "golden", or yellow-green); 3–6 mm long; (3–)4–6 mm wide; dehiscent; splitting to the base into separate segments (to look like the surface view of a bird's nest). Seeds 25–50; 0.6–1 mm long; brown (brownish red); surfaces smooth (shiny).

Chromosome information. 2n = 48.

(2x) (4x) = 24. Flovik (1940, Svalbard); Löve (1954b, northern Europe); Packer, in Savile (1959, northern Canada); Packer (1959, northwestern Canada; 1963, northern Canada, 1968); Zhukova (1965b, Wrangel Island; 1980, southern Chukotka; 1982, eastern Chukotka); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada, 2n = about 24); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Mulligan and Porsild (1969, Yukon); Engelskjøn and Knaben (1971, arctic northern Norway); Krogulevich (1971, Siberia); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1973, Chukotka); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1975, 1976, 1980, western Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1977, northern Siberia); Löve and Löve (1982a, central Canada).

Ploidy levels recorded 4x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. The presence of this species is indicative of nitrophilous conditions either from animal or human activity. The northernmost record is Floraberget, approx. 80°3'N in Murchisonfjord, North-East Land, Spitsbergen Archipelago. The northernmost record in Canada is Ellesmere Island, Seagull Rock, 76°28'N (Canada).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: imperfectly drained moist areas (often growing in soil enriched by animal manure, near animal dens); nitrophilous. Warming (1909) considered self-pollination in this species is probably very common in Greenland and takes place by stamens bending inwards and styles bending outwards so that stamens and stigmas come in contact. Two lateral stamens are rarely involved, and are sometimes observed to be rudimentary. Fruit setting usually occurs, and quantities of seed are produced. In the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the species flowers and fruits abundantly, even in the Far North where it may be only 2–3 cm high (Polunin 1940).

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, alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin (Bylot), Ellesmere (Melville), Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Somerset, King William (Eglinton, Southampton, Coats, Prince Charles, Digges, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal. Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, 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, East Greenland.

General notes. Polunin (1940) recognised the taxon as Chrysosplenium alternifolium var. tetrandrum, indicating that he considered the typical variety to have 6–8 anthers and to be absent from eastern North America. He claimed that all Canadian Arctic Archipelago material belongs to the well-marked variety (var. tetrandrum), having only four stamens and smaller and more rounded leaves with fewer crenations. Porsild (1957) used the name C. tetrandrum and noted that the number of stamens in Canadian Arctic material is usually 4, but not uncommonly 6 or 8.

Elven et al. (2003) noted that taxonomy in this genus is complicated, and several of the few arctic representatives are uncertain. This concerns the possible racial division of C. alternifolium, the distinctness of C. tetrandrum as a species from C. alternifolium, and the ambiguities of C. rosendahlii.

Packer (1963) described C. rosendahlii Packer based on type material collected on Somerset Island, but this was not taken up by Scoggan (1978).

Elven et al. (2003) noted that the two essential differences between C. tetrandrum and C. alternifolium are the ploidy level and the fewer stamens in the former. Otherwise, there are some quantitative and habitual characters, and the plants look very different. This is perhaps enough for species, but treatment as subspecies of C. alternifolium is also an option that has been proposed several times.

Elven et al. (2005) noted "The combination C. alternifolium subsp. tetrandrum was first made by A. Blytt and O.C. Dahl (1904), [Haandb. Norges Fl. 411]. Jalas et al. (1999) stated that the book was printed in October 1906, while Cajander made the same combination later in 1906 in Suomen Kasvio 325. However, Blytt and Dahl's work was printed and distributed in fascicles, and fascicle 26 where Chrysosplenium appeared was distributed already in 1904. Both combinations predate the often cited combination of Hultén Fl. Aleut. Isl. 217, 1937."

Illustrations. • Habitat: Victoria. Lower centre, clump of plants growing beside sedge meadow. Nunavut, Victoria Island, Cambridge Bay. Photo by L.J. Gillespie. L.L. Consaul 1109 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Habitat: Southampton Island. Plants growing between the markers in an Arctophila meadow. Nunavut, Southampton Island. Aiken and Brysting 01–065. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Plants less than 5 cm tall growing between the markers in an Arctophila meadow. Nunavut, Southampton Island. Aiken and Brysting 01–065. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Habitat: Cape Dorset. Plants with capsules that have opened. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 7 August, 2005. Aiken 05–100. CAN 586969. • Close-up of plant. Plants with clusters of 'golden flowers' subtended by lobed leaves. Nunavut, Victoria Island, Cambridge Bay. L.L. Consaul 1109 and L.J. Gillespie . CAN. • Close-up of inflorescence. Cluster of six flowers, four with fruit developing from a mainly inferior ovary, and two flowers at anthesis. Victoria Island, Cambridge Bay. L.L. Consaul 1109 and L.J. Gillespie. CAN. • Fruit open to show seeds. Plants with the yellow fruiting capsules open to reveal red seeds. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Nikko Island. 1998. Scale bar in cm. • Fruit. Opened fruits with seeds. The plants are known for 'splash-cup' dispersal, i.e., rain drops falling into the bowls and throwing the seeds out. Norway, Svalbard, Sassen, Noisdalen. 6 August, 1987. Photograph by R. Elven. • 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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