Wednesday, 19 January 2005

Meconopsis grandis


East Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet (largest flowers) and Arunchal Pradesh. There is an outlying population in West Nepal. The most breathtaking of all the Meconopsis. The leaves are characteristically different from M. betonicifolia and the flowers can be up to 25 cms. across in some forms. It is very variable in its range in the Himalayas and may yet be divided into sub species or varieties. The colour can vary from brilliant sky blues to muddy purples and the flowers from open to cup shaped. There is a great deal of information on this species and M. betonicifolia on the website of the Meconopsis Group as well as a huge amount of information on hybrids and strains of these plants.

February 2011. Chris Grey-Wilson has just written an article in SIBBALDIA, the Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture No. 8 on Meconopsis grandis - The true Himalayan blue poppy. This is a well researched article with a wealth of historical detail and a section on cultivation wriiten by John Mitchell of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Dr. Grey-Wilson has divided M. grandis into 3 sub-species. M. g. grandis is found in East Nepal especially to the SE of Everest. This has been collected many times and does still exist in cultivation (but rarely). Two of these are the form known as KEKE (Kew Edinburgh Kanchenjunga Expedition) - this is a robust plant with very large flowers (18 cm across) and 'Sikkim Form' which is much dwarfer,smaller flowered and less floriferous with narrow leaves.This has very bristly seed pods even when mature. The best known of all M. grandis is L and S 600 is placed in M.g. orientalis (incorrectly but better known as GS 600), it also includes Betty's Dream Poppy named after George Sherriff's wife who recounted the story of it's finding to me many years ago at Ascrievie when I met her. This story has been questioned but is undoubtedly true. One of the best features that can be used to distinguish the plants that come from north and north east Bhutan, NW Arunachal Pradesh (Assam) as well as just over the border into Tibet (Cho La and Po La) is smooth seed pods. This subspecies has recently been recollected by Peter Cox (Glendoick) and party and is in cultivation. Finally in West Nepal from the Jumla region is a very outlying population called M.g. jumlaensis. This has been rarely collected and is a small plant with similarities to M. g. grandis which has smooth seed pods and is only 35 cms tall at a maximum.


This is straight forward species that needs treating much like M. betonicifolia. The problem lies in the seed. Much offered commercially is probably not this species but fertile hybrids like Lingholm (one might add here that Lingholm at its best is superlative and really unbeatable unless you like collecting named varieties) I have grown M. grandis for many years but here on the east coast of Scotland it is difficult if a succession of dry summers occurs. In Caithness it grows well, increases vegetaively and I have so far lost none of the big blue poppies grown there. I have several plants of the 'Sikkim Form' and KEKE that grow close together. They do not set seed each year but most years I harvest some. Very often this seed does not germinate well. I suspect that what appears to be good seed from species stressed during the growing season may have a poor germination rate. As far as I have proof the only Meconopsis species that is self fertile is M. superba and it may be that in many gardens only a single plant of the true species of M. grandis exists. There is no doubt that a cool northern garden is required to get seedlings to grow on to mature multicrowned perennial plants and even areas where Meconopsis are reasonably possible seedlings will tend to flower in the second year and die and I have always doubted the advice about removing flowers. If they are happy they will thrive and become polycarpic, if not they will die. Best probably to flower several plants and get a seed set then retry the seedlings somewhere cooler.

Map Location

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