Sunday, 8 January 2006

Spiny Leaved Blue Plain Leaves ( Horridua Types )

Meconopsis horridula
A classic image of a classic plant-regretably almost impossible to grow! Note there is no raceme and the plant is scapose and ground hugging.
Taylor lumped a number of species into this. Recently many have been resplit and new ones have been described. THIS IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF WHY THE LINNEAN BINOMIAL SYSTEM DOES NOT WORK. THIS IS A SORT OF SUPERSPECIES IN THE PROCESS OF ACTIVE EVOLUTION. It is widespread in the Himalayas and China and very variable in spininess, leaf pigmentation and flower colour though it tends to be consistent in a particular area.
Meconopsis horridula
Another image of the variation that has been given the classic name. Typically sky blue flowers, very spiny leaves with long, usually golden spines (but can be at least partly purple) and bright gold stamens. These are always high altitude - 5,000 m. and near Everest up to 6,000 m. and towards the maximum altitude of any vascular plant. However note even this plant is at least partly scapose with the first bud clearly on a branch of the main stem. These are often agglutinosed (pedicels stuck to the main stem but with a vascular bundle separate from the main stem) This becomes more pronounced as one descends the mountain until at about 4,000 m. they are properly racemose and become M. racemosa !
Meconopsis racemosa
This the standard racemose from of what was lumped by Taylor into M. horridula. It is very similar to the next image of M prattii. M. racemosa is usually described with yellow anthers and sometimes has at least partially purple spines on the leaves while M. prattii does not. This is a very widespread plant in the Himalayas as well as China and probably very variable.
Classic picture of M. prattii - taken, I suspect, at a sort of tame botanic garden near Lijiang. This is another of Chris Grey-Wilsons splits from Taylor's M. horridula. He quite rightly points out that this identical to the M. horridula grown in gardens. This year I grew 40 of the wild collected species from Yunnan and compared them to 40 plants grown from the strain grown in gardens for the last 50 years or more. They were quite indistinguishable by any biometric measurement. This species has been reported with pigmented leaves , yellow anthers and even being entirely scaopse at altitude. However this group is becoming ever more chaotic and many identifications in this 'superspecies' have to be suspect. Image by Alain Denis
M. rudis
A plant typical of that now split off as M. rudis. This has large broad leaves that are glaucous, large rather sparse spines which are purple pigmented particularly at the spine base, the anthers are usually greyish and the petals at best a royal blue but often purple and sometimes an ugly muddy purple. It is a distinctive plant with attractive foliage.
M. rudis
Comparison with a leaf of M. prattii. The rudis leaf shows the glaucous nature, more oval shape and particularly the raised purple bases to the spines. On the Da Xue Shan in Yunnan when the author found this species in it's pure form it occurred in open screes while on the same mountain side M. prattii was at lower levels among grazed grass. THERE WERE HUGE NUMBERS of hybrids intermediate between these two species.
M. rudis
A defining character of this species are the purple spines and tubercles which give rise to them. The author grows many Meconopsis from wild seed (when available) and in 2009 sowed seed sold as 'species' This germinated extremely well with more than 100 plants grown on. As seedlings they were troubling with very long petioles (see above) but grew well and large. In 2010 they largely flowered and were clearly M. rudis HOWEVER more than half had broad glaucous leaves BUT WITH NO PIGMENT. THUS PURPLE PIGMENT ON LEAF SPINES CANNOT BE A DEFINING CHARACTER OF THIS SPECIES. Note in the middle top row there is a leaf of M. pratti for comparison.
M. prainiana
Another split species lumped by Taylor. It is a more robust plant and clearly attractive but not in cultivation, a defining character is meant to be that it has 4 petals. Taylor who examined herbarium specimens collected by Kingdom-Ward among others, could see no justification in giving it even varietal status! As with many of the 'species' that follows it really has to depend whether you are a 'splitter' or a 'lumper.' Of course if you are like the bird 'twitching' communiity the more the merrier! Scientifically it is difficult to see what the value is since many do not fit what is a sensible objective view of a true species. People who have recently seen this plant say it can have at least 6 petals. IF ALL THESE NEW SPECIES ARE INTERFERTILE - WHICH I SUSPECT THEY WILL BE - then giving them species status is undermined.
M. bijangiensis
Herbarium sheet deposited at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. To the web master this is just a variation on the racemose forms like M. racemosa. It has purple blue flowers which characteristically droop (maybe like other Meconopsis sp. that show this character to shed rain) It has so far only been found by Toshio Yoshida on the very unexplored northern Mekong/Salween divide. It shows leaves typical of many other variations on racemose 'horridula' types with longish petioles. The webmaster has colour images (Yoshida is a quite remarkably good photographer) but these would be subject to copyright).
M. castanea
This image is NOT M. castanea but a lovely red form of M. racemosa photographed in Bhutan by Martin Walsh in an area where there were also clear pink ones. M. castanea has been described as a new species based on plants found on the Mekong/Salween divide by Toshio Yoshida. It is difficult to see any defining characters which separate this from the widespread racemose M. racemosa other than flower colour. Flower colour simply is not a character that should be used to define species.
M. heterandera
Another new species described from a single plant deposited at the Kunming Herbarium by Toshio Yoshida. It was collected on the Mianning Xian. It is well illustrated with colour plates in Acta Botanica Yunnanica 32, 503-507 (2010) This species looks very like many M. racemosa BUT is is decribed as having a ring of outer stamens with inflated (air filled) filaments. The illustration above is copied from photographs of these unique stuctures. The filaments in M. henricii apparently differ in being dilated rather than inflated. They describe plants on the Balang Shan, Siguniang Shan and the Jiajin Shan to the north as variants of this species or hybrids where they have been previously been described as M. racemosa or rudis. Whether this character is sufficient for a new species to be claimed and how widespread they are needs further investigation.
M. qinghaiensis
An image from Ron Macbeath taken some years ago while on an expedition from the R.B.G.E. This was taken towards the most northerly distribution of this species in China. It reputably is more upward facing when in flower than M. horridula and this perhaps would be expected from the very much drier climate than many of the high altitude M. horridula. There were also images of the plant growing with agglutinosed racemes with a few flowers just as happens with M. horridula as one comes down from high altitude. Very difficult to see how anyone can justify this as a separate species or even perhaps a variety.
M pseudohorridula
This species has been described on the Flora of China website (where the description and drawings can be seen). It was described by Wu and Chuang in 1985 in the Flora of SE Xizang. It is a dwarf and scapose (10cms in flower) from high altitude of 4,700 m. This dwarfness and scapose nature is typical of the high altitude M. horridula which apart from the pinnate foliage it closely resembles. The flower is pale blue and the anthers yellow - as in M. horridula. Even M. prattii sometimes has pinnate lobes as do other species in this complex so once again one has to doubt whether this is truly a species rather than a variant from a particular region.Copied by the webmaster (badly) from the Flora of China website.