Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
English: Arctic willow,
French: Saule arctique,
Inuktitut: Suputit, suputiksaliit, uqaujait; uqaujaq (Nunavik).
Salicaceae, Willow family.
Published in Fl. Ross. 1: 86. 1788.
Type: Described from Siberia, lower reaches of Ob.
Synonymy. Salix arctica Pall. β (var.) brownei Andersson, in DC., Prodr. 16(2): 286. 1868.
Salix crassijulis Trautv., Nouv. Mem. Soc. Naturalistes Moscou 2: 308. 1832.
Salix arctica Pall. subsp. crassijulis (Trautv.) A.K. Skvortsov in Tolm., Fl. Arct. URSS 5: 9. 1966.
Salix arctica Pall. subsp. jamu-taridensis A.K. Skvortsov ex V.V. Petrovsky, Bot. Zhurn. 68: 31. 1983.
Salix anglorum auct. non Cham.
Salix anglorum Cham. var. antiplasta C. K. Schneider, Bot. Gaz. 66 : 134. 1918.
Salix anglorum Cham. var. araioclada C. K. Schneider, Bot. Gaz. 66 : 133. 1918.
Salix anglorum Cham. var. kophophylla C. K. Schneider, Bot. Gaz. 66 : 130. 1918.
Salix arctica Pall. subsp. tortulosa (Trautv.) Hultén, Ark. Bot., ser. 2, 7(1): 38. 1967.
Salix arctica Pall. var. antiplasta (C. K. Schneider) Fernald, Rhodora 48: 44. 1946.
Salix arctica Pall. var. araioclada (C. K. Schneider) Raup, Sargentia 4: 100. 1943.
Salix arctica Pall. var. brownei Andersson, In DC., Prodr. 16(2): 286. 1868.
Salix arctica Pall. var. kophophylla (C. K. Schneider) Polunin, J. Bot. 77: 271. 1939.
Salix arctica Pall. var. pallasii (Andersson) Kurtz , Engl. Bot. Jahrb. 19: 406, 474. 1891.
Salix arctica Pall. var. tortulosa (Trautv.) Raup, Contr. Gray Herb. 185: 49. 1959.
Salix brownei (Andersson) Bebb, In Coult. Bot. Gaz. 14: 115. 1889.
Salix pallasii Andersson, In DC., Prodr. 16(2): 285. 1868.
Salix pallasii Anderssonα (var.) crassijulis (Trautv.) Andersson, In DC., Prodr. 16(2): 285. 1868.
Salix crassijulis Trautv., Nouv. Mem. Soc. Nat. Moscou 2: 308. 1832.
Salix tortulosa Trautv., Nouv. Mem. Soc. Nat. Moscou 2: 308. 1832.
Vegetative morphology. Plants 3–25 cm high; shrubs; dwarf shrubs; not colonial, or forming colonies by layering. Horizontal stems at ground level, branching extensively to shape plant habit as mats (sometimes). Aerial stems decumbent, or prostrate, or erect (sometimes with long trailing branches that root where they touch the surface). Branches yellow-brown, or yellowish, or grey-brown, or red-brown, or brownish; not glaucous, or strongly glaucous; glabrous, or glabrescent. Branchlets yellow-brown, or red-brown, or violet; not glaucous, or weakly glaucous, or strongly glaucous; glabrous, or glabrescent, or hairy; pilose, or villous. Branchlet hairs sparse, or moderately dense; spreading. Buds arctica-type. Leaves present; distributed along the stems; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Stipules present, or absent; on first leaves foliaceous, or rudimentary, or absent; on leaves formed later in the season foliaceous; early deciduous; green; apex acute. Petioles 2–35 mm long; deeply concave in cross section; glabrous, or hairy; puberulent (if applicable). Juvenile leaves yellowish green; glabrous, or hairy; abaxial surfaces villous (long, straight hairs pointing toward tip); abaxial hairs sparse, or moderately dense; abaxial hairs white. Leaf blade bases obtuse, or cuneate, or rounded (slightly decurrent). Blades 10–85 mm long, length-width ratio 1–3.6 (size and shape is very variable), 5.5–60 mm wide, elliptic (narrowly elliptic to sub-circular) or circular or oblanceolate or obovate (to broadly obovate). Blade adaxial surface dull or shiny, glabrous or hairy or glabrescent, hairs pilose or tomentose or long-silky, hairs sparse or moderately dense, hairs white, or translucent. Blade abaxial surface glaucous (a thick waxy bloom), hairy (usually clothed with long, straight, appressed hairs that may persist as a "beard" at the tip), hairs pilose or short-silky or long-silky, hairs sparse, hairs white, hairs straight (typical) or wavy, hairs spreading or appressed. Blade margins slightly revolute or flat. Blade margins entire and glandular-dotted, with teeth per cm 1–3; apices obtuse, or rounded, or acute.
Reproductive morphology. Plants dioecious. Inflorescences catkins. Pedicels absent. Catkins flowering as leaves emerge. Male catkins 14–65 mm long; 5–18 mm wide; slender, or stout, or sub-globose; peduncles 2–13 mm long; borne on a flowering branchlet; flowering branchlets 2–20 mm long. Female catkins 20–105 mm long; 8–18 mm wide; slender, or stout, or sub-globose; peduncles 4–30 mm long; borne on a flowering branchlet; flowering branchlets 2–40 mm long. Floral bracts brown, or black (rarely light brown); 1.6–3.7 mm long; hairy all over; hairs sparse; hairs straight (long); apices rounded (broadly), or convex, or retuse, or acute (rarely); apices entire, or with minute undulations (or with 2–3 undulations). Flowers unisexual. Sepals absent. Petals absent. Stamens 2; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers purple, or purple becoming yellow, or reddish, becoming yellow; ellipsoid; 0.32–0.9 mm long. Male flowers abaxial nectaries absent, or present. Male flowers adaxial nectaries narrowly oblong, or oblong, or square (or flask-shaped); 0.5–1.2 mm long. Female flowers abaxial nectaries absent. Female flowers adaxial nectaries oblong, or ovate, or narrowly oblong; 0.4–1.8 mm long; longer than stipes (rarely equal to stipes). Ovary carpels 2. Stipes 0.2–1.6 mm long. Ovaries inverse club-shaped, or pear-shaped; abruptly tapering to style, or slightly bulged below style, or gradually tapering to style; hairy; villous. Ovary hairs very dense, or sparse, or moderately dense; white; spreading; wavy; flattened (sometimes refractive). Styles 0.6–2.2 mm long. Stigma lobes 0.35–0.88(–1.13) mm long. Ovules per ovary 12–15. Fruit a capsule; 4–9 mm long; hairy.
Chromosome information. 2n = 76 and 114.
2n (4x) = 76. Holmen (1952, Greenland); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada, 2n = about 76); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Suda and Argus (1969, Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1980, western Chukotka); Petrovsky and Zhukova (1983a, northeastern Asia); Dawson, in Argus (1997, North America);
n = greater than 100. Zhukova (1969, northeastern Asia); Petrovsky and Zhukova (1983a, northeastern Asia);
n (6x) = 114. Zhukova et al. (1973, northeastern Asia); Petrovsky and Zhukova (1983b, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1987, northeastern Asia); Suda and Argus (1969, Alaska);
2n = about 120. Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1948a, southern Siberia, Altai).
Ploidy levels recorded 4x and 6x.
Indigenous knowledge. An Inuit name Suputit means the flowers of willow gone to seed. Other names are suputiksaliit and uqaujait, which refers to young willow leaves that were eaten with pieces of blubber (Ootoova et al. 2001).
In abandoned tent sites, or abandoned winter dwellings, once it thawed out it might expose some blubber, which would be rancid, or rendered oil from the blubber would get rancid. By adding some arctic willow you could chew it as you would a gum. If you took the rancid blubber that we had made into gum, then added rendered oil, the colour would turn white like the colour of a caribou back fat. If there were berries, you could add them and make a pudding. The dwarf willow has edible leaves, and its roots can be peeled and bitten to relieve a sore throat. These plants also provide grazing food for muskox and arctic hairs (Rachel Uyarasuk, in Mallory and Aiken 2004).
Ecology and habitat. A ubiquitous dwarf shrub, often forming prostrate mats spreading from a central stem. It may occur on sparsely vegetated surfaces or spreading over dense tundra vegetation. It grows in most arctic habitats, including hummocks in wet sphagnum bogs and sedge meadows, polygonal tundra, solifluction slopes, snowbeds, margins of pools, beach ridges, shaley and gypsum ridges, gneissic cliffs, colluvial slopes, talus slopes, imperfectly drained calcareous silty till, muddy salt flats, frost-heaved clay polygons, dry calcareous gravel, and coarse sandy soil. Plants are often heavily browsed by muskox and arctic hares. Elevation 0–700 m.
North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands, Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, Southampton, Coats.
Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar. Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Polar Ural Novaya Zemlya, YamalGydan, Taimyr Severnaya Zemlya, AnabarOlenyok, Kharaulakh, YanaKolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.
General notes. This circumpolar species is morphologically polymorphic and nomenclaturally confused. Many botanists studying the flora of the Arctic Archipelago have collected what they thought were two or three species of Salix only to find on their return that they were all S. arctica. Some taxonomists (Hultén 1967, 1971) have recognised three subspecies in S. arctica: (1) subsp. arctica (circumpolar from Iceland and the Faeroe Islands across northern Russia, Alaska, and Canada to Greenland, south to the Hudson Bay shores of Ontario and the Gasp‚ Peninsula), (2) subsp. crassijulis (a North Pacific race ranging from Kamchatka and the Russian Far East to the Aleutian Islands, south central and southeastern Alaska along the coast to northern Washington), and (3) subsp. torulosa (ranging from the mountains of Central Asia to Kamchatka and the Bering Straits, the Brooks Range and the Rocky Mountains in Alaska, south in the cordillera to southern British Columbia and Alberta). While the phytogeographic pattern of these three races is appealing, they are actually very difficult or impossible to separate morphologically. Argus (1973) presented evidence that the latter two subspecies were environmental modifications of one species. He reported that robust plants in the Glacier Bay area of southeastern Alaska (S. arctica subsp. crassijulis) were associated with nitrogen-rich Alnus thickets, whereas small plants (S. arctica subsp. torulosa) from the same area were growing on open moraine. Others have also reported environmental modification of S. arctica. Savile (1964) noted that depauperate specimens occurred in depressions behind beach ridges where they may be immersed in years of high water. Soper and Powell (1985) observed that this species varied considerably according to ecological and edaphic conditions. Dawson (1987) showed that the female-biased sex ratios in S. arctica are environmentally controlled. He found that female plants are significantly over-represented in mesic-wet, more fertile, low soil temperature sites, whereas male plants are predominant in drier, less fertile sites. In light of this evidence, the possibility that the complex morphological variability within S. arctica may be ecophenic or ecotypic deserves study. Other characters cited to separate subsp. torulosa (Hultén 1971), including leaf shape and floral bract colour, do not withstand scrutiny (Argus 1973, Raup 1959). The morphological variability within S. arctica, although striking, does not seem to reflect taxonomic differences.
Specimens of Salix arctica of various ages have been reported in the arctic. Gelting (1934) found a specimen of about 130 years in Franz Joseph Fjord, East Greenland. In the Mesters Vig area of East Greenland (King Oscars Fjord), Raup (1965) reported that most specimens were about 60 years old, with one reaching 180 years and another 236 years. Savile (1979) reported the oldest Canadian material, 85 years, from Lake Hazen, Ellesmere Island (Savile 1979).
In northern Greenland, Salix arctica is one of the primary foods for muskox, arctic hare, and collared lemming (Klein and Bay 1991).
Salix arctica × S. arctophila (S. ×hudsonensis C. K. Schneider) (Argus, in press, Polunin 1940). There are a number of putative hybrids in the Canadian Museum of Nature collection from Baffin and Ellesmere islands. These plants have leaves and branchlets that are almost glabrous as in S. arctophila, but bearing only a few long hairs. In addition, the ovaries have flattened, refractive hairs as in S. arctica, not ribbon-like hairs as in S. arctophila. A specimen from Bylot Island reported to be intermediate between S. arctica and S. arctophila (Drury 1962: 88–89) is S. arctica. Representative specimens: Soper, J.D. 122106, Baffin Island, Panguirtung Fjord. 26 July 1924. CAN 46583; Wynne-Edwards, V.C. Baffin Island, Head of Clyde Inlet. 11 July 1950. CAN 283881; Polunin, N. 2376. Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 15 June 1924. CAN 46516; Soper, J.D. 132178. Baffin Island, Head of Kinga Fjord. 31 July 1924. CAN 46520; Malte, M.O. s.n. Ellesmere Island, Craig Harbour. 2 Aug. 1927. CAN 46377; Malte, M.O. 118599. Ellesmere Island, Dundas Harbour. 27 July 1927. CAN 46381.
Salix arctica × S. glauca (S. ×waghornei Rydb.) (Argus 1965, 1973, 2003, Skvortsov 1971). In 1965 Argus wrote, This hybrid is characterised by various combinations of the characteristics of S. arctica and S. glauca. The S. glauca characteristics include erect habit, leaves less oblanceolate and without the attenuate base of S. arctica, shorter petioles, bracts light-colored with shorter wavy trichomes [hairs], and a divided style. The S. arctica characteristics include prostrate habit, pruinose [glaucous] stems and buds, sparse branchlet-pubescence, dark-colored bracts with long, straight trichomes, leaves with long straight trichomes on the lower [abaxial] surface projecting in a beard at the apex, capsules reddish with long stigmas, and dark colored anthers. Specimens identified as hybrids combine these characters in various ways. On Baffin Island, the hybrid is difficult to recognise because S. glauca and S. arctica are so convergent in their morphology that the recognition of intermediates is difficult.
Illustrations. • Habitat. Willow tickets dominate hillsides at the entrance to Auyuittuq National Park from Pangnirtung Fiord. Nunavut, Baffin Island. 8 August, 2006. Aiken. No Voucher. • Habitat: leaves turning yellow. Leaves turning yellow in late season. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Tarr Inlet, 20 August, 2006. Aiken. No voucher. • Habit. Plant growing on stony gravel. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 22 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 18992. CAN. • Habit. Plant forming a prostrate mat on a lakeshore. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Lake Hazen. 11 August, 1995. Photograph by Lynn Gillespie. • Habit, old plant: Dorset. Plant growing over rocks. Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 3 August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Habit. Plant forming a prostrate mat on a glacial moraine. Alaska, Glacier Bay. 29 June, 1967. • Habit. Plant growing among rocks. Capsules have opened releasing seeds surrounded by hairs (fluff). Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Alexandra Fiord. 30 July, 1991. Photograph by Lynn Gillespie. • Close-up of plant. Dwarf shrub growing prostrate among rocks. N.W.T. Aiken 97–021. Photographed by Mollie MacCormac. • Close-up of female flowering plant. Close-up of female flowering plant with each ovary abruptly tapering to the style. Note the abaxial surface of the leaves is always glaucous and usually clothed with long, straight, appressed hairs that may persist as a "beard" at the tip. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 30 August, 1997. Aiken and Cheryl McJannet 97021. CAN. • Close-up of plant. Close-up of plant with broadly elliptic leaves. The ovaries vary in colour from yellow (shown here) to red or even green. Alaska, Glacier Bay. 29 June, 1967. • Close-up of plant. Close-up of the plant with oblanceolate leaves. Alaska, Glacier Bay. 29 June, 1967. • Young male catkins. Male catkins beginning to flower. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Apex. 6 July, 2004. Aiken and LeBlanc 04–020. CAN 586493. • Close-up of male catkin. Catkins are densely flowered, the leaves on the flowering branchlet show the long "beard" of hairs at the tip. Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. 22 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 18865. CAN. Photograph by J.M. Gillett. • Female catkins. Female catkins are erect and densely flowered. CMN Photo Library S84–5377. Photograph by Donald Gunn. • Close-up of female catkin. Female catkin with red styles and stigmas, densely hairy ovaries, and floral bracts with long, straight hairs. CMN Photo Library S84–5379. Photograph by Donald Gunn. • Close-up of female catkin. Female catkins are densely flowered, the leaves on the flowering branchlet show the long "beard" of hairs at the tip. Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 22 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 18992. CAN. Photograph by J.M. Gillett. • Line drawing. A. Male catkins are borne on short, leafy flowering branchlets. B. Male flowers have 2 stamens, a floral bract with long straight hairs, and a single nectary. C. A female catkin borne on a short, leafy flowering branchlet. The vegetative shoot bears elliptic to broadly elliptic leaves. D. Female flowers have villous ovaries, a long style, a long-hairy floral bract, and a single floral nectary that is longer than the stipe. Coville 1901. • 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..