Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Meconopsis horridula


( From the main Himalayan range ). M. horridula Group: (horridula, prattii, racemosa and rudis) Taylor lumped a number of species into this one spiny blue-flowered deciduous monocarpic species. C Grey-Wilson has recently split them up into the four distinctive species above. M. horridula occurs at high altitude (from just below 5000 metres to nearly 6000) often in bleak open habitats:- perhaps one of the world’s greatest high alpine plants It mainly has pure large sky blue flowers with golden anthers and flowers very dwarf from basal scapes. It is very spiny, often with long golden spines but can have substantial purple pigment on the stems and sometimes the leaves.

This is a difficult group to deal with. M. horridula is a very spiny, high altitude plant with often sky blue flowers on basal scapes only; but they can be stuck together (agglutinosed) and is absent from China. M. racemosa is at lower altitudes from M. horridula with flowers on a raceme but also spiny - anthers often yellow but can be grey. These racemose plants are the most difficult and the status of M. racemosa is still being assessed. Racemose plants may also be M. prainiana, rudis and prattii or perhaps the new Chinese species M bijangensis or castanea. M rudis has large glaucous grey leaves and deep purple pigment at the base of (sometimes) sparse large spines from China and East Tibet. M. pratti lower altitude plant in China with racemes of flowers and many short spines and often dark blue flowers. Many of these species in their typical forms are clear cut but there is great variability even in a single location and I suspect in new areas there will be other consistent variations within this aggregate that ultimately may end up as being described as new species. There are also the species, M. georgei, M. qinghaiensis and M. pseudohorridula to fit in. Perhaps the most difficult is M.racemosa since it is widespread and often lower down in the same area as M. horridula. Travellers should note there are also altitude effects and that scapose plants are often at higher altitudes and this applies to lplants that typically grow at lower altitudes like M. prattii and also to M. rudis. It must also be noted that some normally scapose plants like M horridula do show many specimens that are agglutinosed to form a superficial raceme, though dissection proves there are separate vascular channels (traces) down to the roots. Typical plants are easily distinguished but it is the mass of intermediates and minor species that are the nightmare.


M. horridula is extremely difficult to grow. Seed germinates well enough but grows on incredibly slowly and they are difficult to keep through the first summer, let alone for another two or three years. Plants brought back to the RBG Edinburgh some years ago flowered out of character. The two species that will grow relatively easily from seed are M. prattii and M. rudis. The former is probably possible with just a little care anywhere in the UK and possibly some the hotter states of the USA. What may be difficult is that the seed will nearly always be offered as M. horridula. By comparison with some of the spectacular big blue poppies M. prattii is a bit of an also ran but it is still a very good plant and a small group would be a focal point in any garden.

Map Location

View Meconopsis World horridula in a larger map