Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
English: Arctic white heather, mountain heather,
French: Casiope tétragone,
Inuktitut: Itsutit, plantiksutit, or qijuktaat.
Ericaceae, Bilberry family.
Published in Edinburgh New Philos. J. 17: 158. 1834.
Type: Sweden, selected by Stone and Stone, in Cafferty and Jarvis, Taxon 51: 752. 2002. Lectotype: LAPP 166, left-hand specimen.
Synonymy. Andromeda tetragona L., Sp. Pl. 393. 1753.
Vegetative morphology. Plants 5–10 cm high; shrubs; dwarf shrubs, or low shrubs. Fibrous roots formed along the prostrate stems. Horizontal stems at ground level, branching extensively to shape plant habit as mats (of rope-like stems). Aerial stems erect, or prostrate (forming mats). Leaves present; distributed along the stems; alternate (overlapping tightly); distinctly distichous (on 4 sides of a quadrangular branch, appearing as a braided rope); persistent and marcescent. Petioles absent. Leaf blade bases truncate. Blades 2.5–3.5 mm long, 1.5–2 mm wide (towards the base), appressed to the stem, lanceolate (superficially), revolute, with inconspicuous veins (a darker zone on the outer surface of the leaf occurs where the leaf margins meet). Blade adaxial surface without sessile glands, glabrous. Blade abaxial surface hairy, hairs pubescent, hairs moderately dense, hairs white, hairs straight, hairs erect. Blade margins entire and revolute; apices acute.
Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowers solitary (in the axil of a leaf), or in inflorescences (sometimes a pair of flowers at the top of a stem). Inflorescences racemose (if applicable); terminal. Pedicels present (technically flowering stems that are pedicel-like). Bract leaves 1–20 mm long. Flowers medium-sized. Sepals conventional; 5; free; 1.2–2 mm long; 2–3 mm wide; green (when young), or red (or reddish brown when petals are fully expanded, and later when surrounding the fruit). Calyx glabrous. Petals conventional; fused; 5; white; 5–7 mm long; not spurred. Corolla campanulate, or urceolate; 5-lobed. Stamens 10. Anthers reddish, becoming yellow. Anthers opening with a terminal pore. Anthers 0.6–0.8 mm long (widest at the point of attachment near the pore opening, and with two trailing horns). Nectaries present. Ovary superior; carpels 5; syncarpous. Ovaries sub-globose; glabrous. Styles 1. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary numerous. Fruit stalked; stalk 10–40 mm long; with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; spherical; brown (reddish); 2.5–4 mm long; 3.2–4 mm wide; glabrous; surface venation reticulate; not distinctly flattened; dehiscent; splitting to the base into separate segments; teeth 5. Seeds numerous; 0.35–0.45 mm long; brown, or yellowish.
Chromosome information. 2n = 26.
2n = 26. Hagerup (1941a, Greenland?); Sørensen and Westergaard, in Löve and Löve (1948, Greenland); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Engelskjøn (1979, Svalbard).
Ploidy levels recorded 2x.
Indigenous knowledge. Some Inuit call this itsutit, meaning "fuel for the fire", or plantiksutit, or qijuktaat, meaning "wood fetched". Arctic heather has traditionally been used for lighting fires to boil water for tea. The flowers are said to taste awful (Ootoova et al. 2001).
Qammait was the name of Arctic bell heather when it was used to insulate roofs.
Anderson (1939) indicated that heather was mixed with mosses and lichens to insulate houses in Alaska. A large number of the plants could be wrapped and sewn inside caribou skins and used as a float or a raft that was tippy, but did not sink. They were also used as bed mats, and to dry an arrarusiq, a bag made out of the small stomach of a caribou. When the bag was dry, it was used to store lamp moss or sinew (Ootoova et al. 2001).
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. Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Melville, Prince Patrick), Banks, Victoria, Somerset, King William, Southampton, Coats (Bylot, Colburg, and Digges islands, Boothia, Melville and Simpson peninsulas).
Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal (arctic-alpine). Svalbard Franz Joseph Land, 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. The arctic plants all belong to subsp. tetragona. This subspecies is partially replaced by, and partly sympatric with, subsp. saximontana (Small) A.E. Porsild in northern Cordilleran areas. Subspecies saximontana differs in having very short pedicels and a slightly different leaf shape.
Illustrations. • Gravel habitat: Cape Dorset. Plants growing on gravelly habitat. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 2 August. 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Habitat: Ellesmere. Foreground white flowers of Arctic White Heather, abundant on this slope. Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Fosheim Peninsula, Hot Weather Creek, 79°58.27'N, 84°26.32'W. 19–21 July, 1996. Photograph by L.J. Gillespie. • Habitat: Banks. Zone of heather in flower. Plants growing on frost boil tundra towards the base of a pingo. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park, beside Thomsen River. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–049. CAN. Scale bar in cm. • Leaves in early spring: Baffin Island. Leaves that turned reddish during the winter are turning green again in the spring. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No voucher. • Close-up of stem. Surface view of one of 4 rows of leaves showing the adaxial surface margins rolled under and enclosing an air space. Aiken 2002 s.n. • Flower buds at a stem apex. Buds developing at the ends of a stem. At this early stage of flowering the buds are almost sessile on the tips of the stems and there may be several of them. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No voucher. • Close-up of buds. Flowers in bud with the buds initially more or less sessile and borne in the axils of leaves. Thus the inflorescence is axillary, though when the pedicels (flowering stalks) elongate the flowers may appear to be terminal on the stems. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park, near Green Cabin. 29 June, 1999. Aiken. • Flower-like diseased leaves. Left, plants setting fruit; right stems with yellowish leafy tips to the stems. These are the result of disease. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Close-up of diseased leaves. Tip of diseased stem with widely separated and larger than usual leaves. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Close-up of flowering stem. Note small, free greenish sepals that turn red as the flower ages. The fused, white petals form a bell-shaped corolla. N.W.T., Banks Island, Aulavik National Park. 11 July, 1999. Aiken 99–049. CAN. • Close-up of flowers. Mature flowers with reddish sepals and pedicels, and white petals. The sepals remain around the developing fruit (extreme right of this picture). Photograph by Lynn Gillespie. • Contrasting Cassiope and Harrimanella flowers. Note the similarity of the flower structure. Left, Cassiope; right, Harrimanella. Both flowers have fused petals, 10 anthers that open by terminal pores and have horns on the opposite ends. Aiken and LeBlanc 2004. No voucher. • Close-up of anther horns. Surface view of pre-anthesis anthers around the style. Each anther with two long horns. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 24 July, 2005. Photograph Kathy Thornhill. • Habit: plants in fruit. Low-lying Arctic White Heather plant in the centre of the picture, with reddish fruit developing. Plants of Empetrum nigrum (BearBerry) with blue-black fruits to the left of the picture. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 97–006. CAN. • Close-up of fruiting stems. Capsules with persistent sepals and styles developing on elongated red pedicels. The flowers hang down and become erect in capsule. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. Aiken 97–006. CAN. • Close-up of capsule. Capsule that has spit into 5 segments from the top with the central axis of the placentation extending into the red remains of the style and stigma. The pale yellow remains of the sepals are at the base of the capsule. 2003. Photograph by Carolyn Mallory. No voucher. • 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..