Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
English: Sea lyme-grass, American dune grass,
French: Élyme des sables d'Amérique, seigle de mer,
Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka, iviksukat.
Poaceae, Grass family.
Published in Bot. Not. 128: 503. 1976.
Type: Described from St. Paul Island, Bering Sea.
Synonymy. Elymus villosissimus Scribn., Bull. U.S. Dept. Agric., Div. Agrost., 17: 326. 1899.
Elymus arenarius L. subsp. mollis (Trin.) Hultén var. villosissimus (Scribn.) Hultén, Lunds Univ. Årsskr., n. f., avd. 2, 38, 1: 270. 1943.
Leymus villosissimus (Scribn.) Tzvelev, Bot. Mater. Gerb. Bot. Inst. AN SSSR 20: 429. 1960.
Vegetative morphology. Plants 15–55 cm high (to 100 cm, but rarely as tall north of 60°N in the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago); perennial herbs. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal, or vertical; rhizomatous (growing as an active sand binder); elongate, or compact; 1–3 mm wide. Ground level or underground stems scales present; surfaces smooth (but veins prominent); 20–35 mm long; glabrous. Aerial stems erect. Leaves present; distributed along the stems (sometimes appearing basal in a moving sand habitat); alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.5–1 mm long; a fringed membrane; hairy; transversely oblong. Ligule apices truncate; erose. Leaves grass-like. Blades 65–170 mm long, 2–9 mm wide, spreading, rolled in bud, linear, with clasping auricles (an extension of the collar), flat (usually) or folded (rolling on drying), veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface scabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous (sometimes glaucous).
Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems with leaves; rooting at the lower nodes; culm nodes not exposed (internodes hairy). Flag leaf sheaths inflated. Inflorescences spicate (with one apical spikelet and at every node several, usually 3, spikelets); dense; linear; 5–9.5 cm long (in the arctic islands, elsewhere to 15 cm long); 10–20 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis hairy. Pedicels absent. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 10–20 mm long; 2–3.5 mm wide. Florets per spikelet (1–)2–3(–4). Two glumes present. First glume 0.85–1 × the length of the second glume; 0.9–1 × spikelet length (as long as spikelet); 9.5–17 mm long; linear; with trichomes (hairy); margins glabrous; veins 1–3; apex acuminate. Second glume as long or longer than the spikelet; almost as long as, or longer than, the lowest floret; 10–19 mm long. Second glume linear. Second glume densely pubescent; veins 1–3(–5). Rachilla pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 2–4 mm long; internode hairy. Lemma lanceolate; 8.6–18.5 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface hairy; veins (4–)7; apex acuminate (attenuate); apex entire; apex ciliate (densely pubescent); awnless. Palea well developed; 8.8–14 mm long; veins hairy. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers 4.5–7 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 7–10 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.
Chromosome information. 2n (4x) = 28. Sokolovskaya (1955, northeastern Asia, 1963, northeastern Asia, Kamtch); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960); Zhukova (1967a, 1982 northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1976, western Chukokt); Löve (1980, 1984).
Ploidy levels recorded 4x.
Indigenous knowledge. "After iviksugait begin to wither, they are often made into baskets in Nunavik and woven into mats" (Ootoova et al. 2001). In Alaska, they are used for tote bags and ropes for hanging herring and other fishes (Ager and Ager 1980).
Taxon as an environmental indicator. When this sand-binding species, which naturally grows near the high tide line, is found inland, it is usually indicative that gravel from a nearby beach has been moved and used as land fill. The species becomes weaker away from the influence of moving sand, and when transplanted inland, dies out after a few seasons.
Ecology and habitat. Substrates: around the margins of ponds; sand; halophytic. Littoral, growing on dunes and sandy places near seashore, or lake shores. Common on sandy beaches of Frobisher Bay, e.g., near the Hudson Bay Store, Apex, and at Peter Head.
North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Rare. Low Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Victoria.
Northern hemisphere distribution. North American, or Siberian. AnabarOlenyok, Kharaulakh, YanaKolyma, West Chukotka, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.
General notes. Elven (personal communication, 2005) noted that the two subspecies [subsp. mollis and subsp. villosissimus] are separable (and not always) mainly on one character, that is, the hairs on glumes and lemmas. Their ranges are overlapping (parapatric). They are probably acceptable as geographical races (as done by Soreng et al. 2003) but hardly as species. Specimens from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, examined by Elven, in Oslo, May 2005, all had soft villous hairs on the glumes and lemmas and were unambiguously subsp. villosissimus.
This species is a member of the grass tribe Triticeae, where there has been much discussion about generic alignments; see, for example, the synonymy for Elymus alaskanus.
Elven et al. (2003) noted that "the separation of L. mollis and L. arenarius at species level is probably justified on a combination of morphological and ploidal differences, even if the morphological differences are few and all the hairiness characters may be genetically interconnected." The taxon in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is L. mollis. On continental North America, L. mollis subsp. villosissimus A. Löve and D. Löve has been recognised [Bot. Not. 128: 503. 1976], but subspecies within L. mollis are difficult to recognise clearly on morphological evidence, as the differences mostly are quantitative. In northern Alaska and Canada, subsp. mollis and subsp. villosissimus are sympatric and not easy to distinguish.
Heagy and Cooke (1979) studied the vegetation at a Lesser Snow Goose [Anser caerulescens caerulescens] breeding colony to determine if particular plant species or species associations were characteristic of the nest sites of the geese. A stepwise discriminant analysis revealed that nest sites could be satisfactorily distinguished from the ambient vegetation using 2 of the 29 plant species growing in the quadrats. These two species, lyme grass (Leymus mollis) and arctic daisy (Arctanthemum arcticum (L.) Tzvelev subsp. polare), were strongly associated with Snow Goose nest sites. Possible explanations for the association are examined. Rather than a cause and effect relationship between plants and nest sites, it was suggested that L. mollis and A. arcticum apparently have similar ecological requirements to those of the geese for a nesting site.
Illustrations. • Habitat. Tall grass plants growing as a binder in disturbed gravel. Manitoba, tidal estuary of the Churchill River. Aiken and Brysting 01–028. CAN. • Gravel distribution habitat. Grass growing around the abandoned Churchill Northern Studies Studies Centre vehicle. These plants are a considerable distance from the sea and were probably moved here in gravel brought in from the coast for the parking lot. Aiken and Brysting 2001. No voucher. • Habitat: Baffin. Grass beside the boat, growing on the beach with Beach Sandwort. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Apex. 24 July, 2005. Photograph by Kathy Thornhill. • Close-up of plants: Dorset. Plants growing on the beach at high tide line and beginning to flower. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 2 August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. Scale bar in cm. • Close-up of plants. Plants more than 70 cm tall growing in gravel at the base of a satellite tower, an indication that the gravel had been brought from closer to the seashore. Manitoba, Churchill, Beech Bay, near airport. Aiken and Brysting 01–028. CAN. • Close-up of spikelet at anthesis. Spicate inflorescence at anthesis with anthers dangling on long filaments. Quebec, Poste-de-la-Baleine. 15 July, 1982. J. Cayouette. DAO. • Close-up of inflorescence. Compact post-anthesis inflorescence, approximately 12 cm long with spent anthers. Manitoba, Churchill, Beech Bay, near airport. Aiken and Brysting 01–028. 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..