Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Google Maps - Meconopsis

Google Map Data has now been developed and integrated within the site.  These maps will be gradually added for all species as I learn how to do it - the biggest difficulty is finding exactly where one is on maps of these remote regions.

There is potential to put sites on with GPS Data but this will need doing with care.  I have recently been reading Peter Coxs' and Peter Hutchinsons' splendid book ' Seeds Of Adventure ' - full of wonderful pictures and fascinating accounts of many adventures in the Himalayas and China.  They comment that they think some Meconopsis may be getting scarcer.  I have only been to China once and saw a number of species but even monocarpic species like M. lancifolia needed searching for and M. pseudointegrifolia was often just a very few plants.  Species like M. punicea and M. integrifolia in Sichuan clearly do occur in huge numbers as does the high altitude M. horridula on large tracts of the Himalayas.  Many other species are very localised however.  It may be that many populations are relics from past ice ages where presumably plants in much of the area simply went down hill in the cold.  An interesting species which makes on think is M. sherriffi.  This is a localised plant in Bhutan but there is a photograph in Eiko Chibas' lovely book of plant portraits ' Where The Blue Poppies Bloom ' which always fascinated me and she has confirmed it was taken on a pass near Kanging, Sichuan.  Perhaps there are sites in between ( Joseph Rock found a pink M. integrifolia somewhere ), perhaps it is naturally a scarce plant but maybe it has been over collected in the past for herbal use.

China has a large and significant botanical professionalism and an impressive attitude to conservation but there, as in the West, there will be strong political and monetary pressures for scientific conservation to stand up against.  Hopefully in all the countries with Meconopsis, commercial use of the plants for medicine ( or possible oils in the case of Meconopsis ) will fade away as Western medicine can be afforded or else where plants are valuable for these reasons they will be cultivated rather than harvested from the wild.  What this is saying is that publishing very detailed descriptions of where plants are is probably not sensible.

We who love to have the precious plants to adorn our gardens will have to make much more effort to understand how to maintain them in cultivation and which parts of the world this is most likely to be successful, especially with the monocarpic species that need to be renewed from seed and must be grown in isolation to stop hybridisation.  Where seed may be legitimately and legally collected in the wild, it would be well to collect a very few seed pods and scatter the vast bulk of the seeds around the parent plant.  Even where there are many plants and they are being collected professionally, a good proportion of seed should be scattered.  A little Meconopsis seed goes a long way since germination should be very high.  I am shaken how poor germination often is with seed from exchanges.  I am sure the main reason is seed collected before it is ripe.  Capsules need to be opened naturally and be shedding seed and this takes weeks after the flowers have gone.  Seeds need to be stored cool ( below 10C ) and dry.  It is well to remember that most commercial seed collected in 2009 will not be in packets for sale until 2011 - which explains a lot.  There are exceptions to ease of germination - M. quintuplinervia is a pig to germinate ( and needs better understanding ) and M. punicea needs sowing as soon as ripe ( it will germinate the following spring ) and there may be others.