Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago


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

Eriophorum scheuchzeri Hoppe

English: Scheuchzer's cotton-grass,

French: Linaigrette de Scheuchzer,

Inuktitut: Suputaujaq.

Cyperaceae, Sedge family.

Published in Bot. Taschenb. 104. plate 7. 1800.

Type: Austria ("...am Tuscher Tauern") Holotype: W (monocots destroyed, see Holmgren et al. 1990).

Synonymy. Eriophorum scheuchzeri Hoppe subsp. arcticum M.S. Novos.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 9–42 cm high (1–3 vegetative shoots); perennial herbs; not caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Roots pallid-brown. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact. Ground level or underground stems scales present (on rhizomes). Aerial stems erect; not filiform (0.6–1.8 mm in diameter below inflorescence). Leaves present; mainly basal, or distributed along the stems (1–5 cauline leaves); alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; persisting; not forming a conspicuous build-up at the base of the plant; brown, or green, or straw-coloured pale yellow (proximal sheaths yellow green first, becoming pale orange-brown with or without orange-brown spots on distal membranous parts; highest distal sheath most often situated below the medial part of the stem or near the base, 2.1–3.6 mm wide, with blades reduced or mostly lacking (Cayouette 2004, p. 811).); with the margins fused to the apex; glabrous; sheath collars absent. Ligules present; 0.5–1 mm long; membranous; glabrous. Ligule apices acute, or obtuse; entire. Leaves grass-like. Blades (15–)25–130 mm long, 0.5–1.4 mm wide, appressed to the stem or spreading, straight (blades of the proximal sheaths flat to slightly cymbiform), linear (sometimes caniculate at the base, triangular towards the tip), flat (on proximal sheaths slight cymbiform), veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous (or rarely scabrous in the distal parts). Blade margins glabrous; apices acute, or obtuse (mostly).

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems solitary. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems with leaves (often there is a modified leaf, most of which is an inflated sheath); uppermost leaf arising below the middle of the stem (usually). Flowers in inflorescences (numerous flowers in a solitary inflorescence). Inflorescences spicate and head-like (a single spike, typically spherical, or slightly flattened at maturity); dense; globose or sub-globose, or hemispherical; 1–3 cm long; 14–45 mm wide. Pedicels absent. Inflorescence unispicate. Individual spike(s) erect. Bisexual spike(s) with empty bracts at the base. Terminal spike with both sexes in each floret. Floral scales brown, or black, or green (with groups or stripes of reddish cells, a difference from E. russeolum); with margins paler than body of the scale; ovate, or lanceolate (proximal scales), or obovate (distal scales obovate, lanceolate or elliptic); 4–12(–14) mm long; 0.8–4.3 mm wide; glabrous; apex acute. Perianth represented by bristles (the "cotton" of cotton grasses) (25–40 hypogynous, 15–25 mm long). Perianth bristles silky white, or translucent (or cream). Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Stamens 3. Anthers yellow (or pale yellow); 0.35–1 mm long. Ovary carpels 3; syncarpous. Styles 3. Stigmas per ovary 3(–4) (stigmatic branches barely open at maturity). Stigma lobes 0.5–1.5 mm long. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; surrounded by a perianth persisting as bristles; dry; an achene; obovate; brown, or golden brown (beige to olive-brown to reddish); 1.7–2.5 mm long; 0.05–0.8 mm wide; indehiscent. Achenes lenticular, or trigonous, or subterete (narrowly obovoid, mostly biconvex or slightly plano-convex). Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 58 (and 58 + 2B).

2n = 58. Flovik (1943, Svalbard); Sørensen and Westergaard, in Löve and Löve (1948, Greenland?); Holmen (1952, Greenland); Löve and Löve (1956, Iceland); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Löve and Ritchie (1966, central Canada); Zhukova (1968, northeastern Asia); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Sokolovskaya (1970, northeastern Russia); Krogulevich (1971, Siberia); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1973, Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1973, northeastern Asia); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978, eastern Chukotka); Dawe and Murray, in Löve (1979, Alaska); Löve (1981d, northern Canada); Dalgaard (1988, western Greenland);

2n = 58, 58 + 2B; Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada).

Indigenous knowledge. Ootoova et al. (2001) says that "The Inuit name pualunnguat used in South Baffin, means "imitation mittens". The name Kumaksiutinnguat, used in the Kinngait, means "an immitation object to remove lice". Kanguujat the term used in North Baffin, means "what looks like snow geese", because a field of the plants in fruit looks similar to snow geese that have just landed. They are used for lamp wick, sometimes mixed with moss. According to Tununirmiut, they can be used alone for lamp wicks, but they are not the first choice for a wick because they crush easily. In Western Alaska (Oswalt 1957: 28) the stems were sometimes gathered during the summer, dried, and used for boot insoles....pualunnguat mixed with rancid seal fat it can be used to relieve aches and pains. Fresh shoots can be eaten and they taste sweet when chewed. Pualunnguat can be used as swabs (Ootoova et al. 2001, p. 267).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: wet meadows, around the margins of ponds, depressions of low-centre polygons, marshes, along streams (on raised terraces above braided channels), river terraces, lakeshores; aquatic, imperfectly drained moist areas, seepage slopes; gravel, sand, silt, clay; with low organic content (bare sand), with high organic content; acidic, or calcareous, or halophytic, or nitrophilous, or non-calcareous, or non-littoral, or circum-neutral. The plants may form dense stands that are almost mono-cultures in shallow water by the edge of ponds. Also found in wet meadows with Carex, or in marshes as emergents with Pleuropogon sabinei. Commonly grazed by muskoxen.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. Arctic, High Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, and Parry islands (Bathurst, Melville, Prince Patrick), Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, and Southampton (and Ellef Ringnes), Coats (Mansel Island, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar and circumboreal. Northern Iceland, 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, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Polunin (1940, pp. 98–99) commented that in the eastern Canadian Arctic "this species varies so much in the length of the anthers and the width of the white margin to the involucral scales that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish from specimens of the generally more slender E. chamissonis f. albidum [in this treatment = E. russeolum]... the shape of the head is apt to be misleading, for it, and indeed the whole appearance of the pappus, may become changed after some days of exposure to wind, rain, and snow... thus Fernald (1905, p.82) gives the length of the anther as 1 mm in E. scheuchzeri and 1.5–3 mm in [E. russeolum], and this allows us to separate the vast majority of specimens [at CAN]." In other Arctic regions anthers of E. scheuchzeri apparently never overlap in length with those of E. russeolum, but that the anthers of the quite frequent hybrids do. Polunin's difficulty in distinguishing the two species may have been due to the presence of hybrids.

Ball and Wujek (2002) in their Flora North America treatment of Eriophorum did not recognize any subspecifc taxa within E. scheuchzeri. However, other authors have recognized infraspecific taxa; pertinent to the present discussion is E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum, which is considered to be a circumpolar or at least partly circumpolar taxon (Novoselova 2004; Cayouette 2004).

Novoselova in Elven et al. (2003) noted that in Russia subspecies arcticum differs from subspecies scheuchzeri in: (i) slightly smaller size [(5-)7–20 cm vs 8–30 cm]; (ii) thinner culms [(0.7-)1.1–1.2(-2) mm versus (1-)1.2–1.5(-2) mm]; (iii) spherical, versus half-spherical, flowering spike; (iv) outermost scales lanceolate or rarely widely lanceolate, 0.6–0.9 cm long, with white margins, often yellowish near the apex (not widely lanceolate, rarely ovoid, 0.9–1 cm long, very rarely with narrow white margins); (v) outer scales lanceolate, long-pointed, black or dark grey with pale margins, usually with at least some red stripes of pigmented cells (not narrowly lanceolate, very long-pointed, brownish grey, with narrow pale margins, and with numerous red stripes).

Cayouette (2004) revised the Eriophoum russeolum - E. scheuchzeri complex in North America. He noted that E. scheuchzeri subsp. scheuchzeri differs from other rhizomatous taxa with solitary whitish spikelets, including their hybrids with the two subspecies of E. russeolum, by having the shortest anthers (0.35–0.8 mm) and the narrowest (0.4–1.0 mm) and most narrowly acuminate medial fertile scales. These scales are dark gray to blackish with narrow hyaline margins or with hyaline margins absent. Cayouette (2004) recognised E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum, following Novoselova (1994), and provided a table listing the main differences between the subspecies. The range of subsp. arcticum was established for northeast North America, and collections from Axel Heiberg, east central Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Prince Charles, Southampton Islands in Nunavut and from northern-most Quebec were confirmed as belonging to this subspecies.

In the present treatment we are provisionally treating E. scheuchzeri in the broad sense, including subsp. arcticum. Subspecies arcticum appears to be the widespread and common entity in the Arctic Archipelago, while subsp. scheuchzeri may be restricted to the southern-most arctic islands. However, the presence of specimens having characters intermediate between the two subspecies in the High Arctic, together with the mostly overlapping or non-discrete character states differentiating the subspecies make identification at the subspecies level difficult. A more thorough study of Canadian Arctic material, particularly from the western Arctic, is needed.

Illustrations. • Habitat: Banks Island. Plants growing beside a pond. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs River delta, near Sachs Harbour. 28 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18906. CAN. • Habitat: Dorset. Plants in shallow ditch beside the road. Scale bar in cm. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 3 August, 2005. No voucher. • Habitat: Banks Island. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Dominant species in a small area of a sedge meadow. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–061. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Habitat: Baffin Island. Plants indicated by the markers, growing in disturbed sand beside a road. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 5 July, 2004. Aiken and Leblanc 04–008. CAN 586480. • Rhizomatous base to plants. Note rhizomatous base to the plants. Uppermost leaf sheath on the flowering culm brownish and close to ground level. Flowering heads that appear wider than high. Contrast with E. callitrix collection 04–007 at same site. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 5 July, 2004. Aiken and LeBlanc 04–008. CAN 586480. • Back of sheath to blade. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Proximal sheath yellow-green below, membranous above, and tapering into a much reduced leaf blade. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Eureka. DAO 257740. • Close-up of flowering stems. Plants at the cotton stage with long scapose flowering stems without leaves in the upper third. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. July, 2004. No Voucher. • Close-up of inflorescence. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Close-up of a single spike approximately 2 cm high with anthers less than 1 mm long caught in the bristles. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–061. CAN. • Side view of subtending scale. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Young spike 8 mm long with tips of the bicoloured scales exposed and side view of the subtending proximal scale. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Cape Herschel. 16 July, 1979. DAO 287868. • Stigmas appear first. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Young inflorescence: upper flowers with pale brown stigmas (s) exposed and lower, older flowers with anthers (a) exposed. Note bicoloured scales at the base. Lower scales have broad apices, but many of the upper scales taper to acuminate apices. Nunavut, Devon Island, Truelove Lowland. DAO 588777. • Close-up of achenes. Achene surrounded by numerous silky white bristles that form the white "cotton" of the cotton grasses. Achenes are obovate in outline, but three-sided trigonous, with a glabrous surface and an apiculate apex from the remains of the deciduous style. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. CAN 5118332. • 1–4 proximal scales without flowers. E. scheuchzeri subsp. arcticum. Base of inflorescence with 1–4 proximal scales without flowers. Scales dark, with reduced hyaline margins. Nunavut, Somerset Island. S.C. Zoltai. DAO 137552. • Close-up of plant. Note well-developed rhizomes, peduncle with no leaves in the upper half, and a single inflorescence spike. Drawing by Mrs. S. Bergh and Mrs. L. Barstad based on a herbarium specimen Svalbard, Oscar II Land, Kapp Boheman ved Pleuropogon, near Signalet J. Lid. 27 August, 1924. O. With permission of the Botanical Museum, University of Oslo, Norway. • 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.