Saturday, 7 January 2006

Deciduous - Yellow

Note these species are not entirely deciduous and some rosette is visible over winter and they are monocarpic (they die after flowering). They were recently split into 2 species with 5 sub species. M integrifolia (above) has big deep yellow upright flowers, no style with the stigma directly on the ovary and 3 veined leaves.The other is M. pseudointegrifolia which is the next image. Few images show all these features and anyway, as we shall see they are not really consistent. Ref New Plantsman, 3 (1) 1996 - Chris Grey-Wilson. The opposite extreme, M. pseudointegrifolia. This shows cream flowers that droop, a really long style behind the stigma above the ovary and leaf veining that is rather random. These characteristics are most common at lower levels - 3,500 metres where the plants often grow though vegetation and they grow in the wetter western part of the range of this pair of species.
The two species growing together in cultivation in Norway by Finn Haugli. The single plant on the left is M. pseudointegrifolia This does show the difference between the stigma and the ovary. The leaf details are not visible and the large globe like flowers of M. integrifolia are drooping in the rain. The flower colour is very similar. To some extent this image illustrates the difficulty in separating these species. The second image on this page was taken by the author about 600M. lower than this one on the Da Xu Shan in NW Yunnan. Tall flowering specimens occurred in scrubby vegetation where domestic animals had been brought for summer grazing. As one ascended a sharp steep scree the plants become dwarfer and in particular the mid-rib of the leaf became progressively thicker but did not become 3 ribbed. The plant clearly adapting by producing more compact and robust leaves at higher levels of exposure to wind. The Da Zue Shan is about the area where Chris Grey-Wilson describes the separation of M. integrifolia from M. pseudointegrifolia.
The next 3 images from the garden illustrate the huge variation in this pair of species. A newly emerging rosette from winter dormancy. Some of these can be compact plants with soft overtones of pink or even a bluish tinge. From a single locality the plants will be similar as were garden collected seeds 40 years ago. Since then the species has been split into two and there is much variation in form and size between the two species in different localities. The form in cultivation 40 years ago. This image was taken in the St. Andrews Botanic garden. This was in a nutrient poor peat bed, and they flowered 2 years after sowing. The flowers were typical deep yellow and globe shaped. Leaf veination was not recorded.
From the same seed source as the plants in the previous image but grown in rich garden soil. THIS MAKES A VERY IMPORTANT POINT WHEN TRYING TO IDENTIFY MANY MECONOPSIS SPECIES, the behaviour of many species in the garden is significantly different from the wild and as these two images show the fertility of the soil has considerable effects. Typical seed pods of M. integrifolia. This lacks almost any style between the stigma and ovary and is almost reverting back to the position of plants in the genus Papaver (like some M. betonicifolia within Meconopsis) This lack of style is one feature used by C. Grey-Wilson in his new classification splitting the old M. integrifolia into two species. It should be noted however that style length is variable even within the new definition of M integrifolia.
A long narrow style between the narrow seed pod and the rounded stigma characteristic of M. pseudointegrifolia. The plants are typical of lower altitudes in wet areas of China and Tibet. They are generally easier to grow in the garden than higher altitude plants that more resemble M. integrifolia. Mainly for this reason and the fact that Meconopsis in general are more difficult to grow in the drier, hotter summer climate of the U.K of the last few decades has seen this form become dominant and the rather more spectacular M. integrifolia types quite rare. Image Hilary Birks - Shika Shan 2009. Leaves of second year plants grown from wild collected seed. All these were purchased as M. integrifolia. The leaf veination tends towards being 3 veined but in none of them is it clear cut. Some M. integrifolia from places like Qinghai do have unequivocal 3 veined leaves and many M. pseuodointegrifolia from lower levels in N.W. Yunnan and Tibet show leaves with a completely random leaf veination.
Map of the western borders of China with Tibet, Assam and Burma. This is directly taken from the map of this region by Dr. Chris Grey-Wilson to show the distibution of the species and sub-species of M. integrifolia and M. pseudointegrifolia according to his recent re-classification (see ref. first image this page). The webmaster accepts this classification but clearly there is huge variation in this pair of species and the key features are so variable that many plants in the garden and the wild are difficult to assign with certainty. Visitors to botanically unexplored parts of this region of the world will undoubtedly find further variation. C. Grey-Wilson in a talk to the Meconopsis Group in Edinburgh discussed the concept of 'Species Associations' of closely related taxa sharing characters. For many both in the garden and the wild it might be best to live with this concept of 'super species'. Meconopsis x Harleyana. This was first found by Frank Kingdom Ward in the Temo La in Tibet but had in fact first been described as a garden Hybrid between M. integrifolia and M. simplicifolia by Andrew Harley. Taylor suspected this was a wild hybrid. Taylor was excited to confirm his suspicions in 1938 when accompanying Frank Ludlow to the Sang La and found numbers of this hybrid among colonies of M. integrifolia (would now be M. pseudointegrifolia ssp. robusta) and M. simplicifolia. It is always cream or white but maybe with a touch of blue at the centre of the flower. When Taylor later returned for seed the hybrid proved sterile. As we shall see M. integrifolia /pseudointegrifolia is involved in many exellent hybrids with blue flowered species always creating cream coloured progeny. Except for possibly a plant of M. x Beamishii (see later) this is so far the only hybrid found in the wild.
M. x Finlayorum. A beautiful hybrid between M. integrifolia and M. quintuplinervia which is perennial. This cross was made by the webmaster (and others) and is now lost. It was named after the Knox-Finlay's of Keillour who made the original cross. Well worth repeating as it is dwarf and highly attractive. The relationship with M. integrifolia shows here. This is M.x Beamishii with M. grandis as the other parent. A small proportion of these from seed are perennial and the hybrid is fertile. They make a good garden plant and are totally deciduous. There is a single report of this in the wild. This can be told from the following species (M. x Sarsonsii) by the leaf which looks like that of M. grandis - but I will not pretend that is easy!
M.x Sarsonsii - a garden hybrid between M. integrifolia and M. betonicifolia. Like M. x Beamishii told by the leaves which in this case resemble M. betonicifolia. Again totally deciduous, fertile and again a small percentage from seed are perennial. Another really nice garden plant, not recorded from the wiid but possible. This is a very critical image in two ways. It is the yellow form of M. discigera. First found in west Sikkim in 1905 and described by Praiin as yellow, though he later withdrew this. Described in 1923 from Nepal as crimson, red or purple and as blue from Bhutan. The blue form is illustrated on the appropriate page of the website. The only difference I can see from images and growing the yellow form is that the tips of the leaves in the yellow form are 3 lobed and the blue form 5 lobed. I have always doubted they were the same species, however similar, BUT strongly suspect sometime in the evolutionary past the yellow form arose as a hybrid probably between M integrifolia and the blue M. discigera. This might well show up in genetic analysis.
There are other yellow deciduous Meconopsis that may also be either fixed ancient hybrids (now true species) or current hybrids (like M.x Harleyana - see above). The image above is the type specimen of M. georgei (named after George Forrest) and collected on the Fu-chuan Shan in N.W. Yunnan by Forrest (later by Rock). It resembles spiny forms of M. horridula except it is yellow flowered. Yellow M. horridula was found in small numbers by Sherriff on the Shagam La near Tsari in Tibet but later in numbers on the Mira La (growing with masses of short stalked M.integrifolia). Taylor desribed M. florindae - a Kingdom Ward find- rare and only known from the Tra La in south east Tibet and related to the blue M.lyrata. Yellow forms of normally blue species may have hybridised (mainly with M. integrifolia) and this needs genetical investigation to establish their true status. TO SUMMARISE M. integrifolia and M. pseudointegrifolia are very widespread and variable. They hybridize with other species in the wild and much more readily in the garden and the progeny tend to resemble the other parent. IT SEEMS POSSIBLE, IN THE WILD, THAT IN THE PAST BLUE AND YELLOW SPECIES HAVE HYBRIDISED TO PRODUCE NEW LARGELY PALE YELLOW SPECIES. If M. discigera in the distant past was a fertile viable hybrid of the blue form of this species with - perhaps- M. integrifolia, it is worth noting that this took place between members of different subgenera - EUMECONOPSIS and DISCOGYNE.
There is a particular reason for including a pink poppy. This lovely image of M. sherriffii was taken in Bhutan by Martin Walsh. Joseph Rock the American collector who was resident in China for many years mentioned a pink M. intregrifolia he had found. I am pretty sure he never went to Bhutan where this species was found on a Ludlow and Sherriff expedition as well as in nearby Tibet. However the Japanese photograher Eiko Chiba shows an image of this species taken near Kanding in Sichuan, hundreds of miles from Bhutan. It is possible that this species was moved from Bhutan as the webmaster has proposed to account for M. betonicifolia in Yunnan hundreds of miles from the Tibet sites. It is possible that both Rock's and Chiba's plants were hybrids between M. punicea and integrifolia though the webmaster has failed to get this cross to take many times. The Kanding site has been travelled past by western botanists many times recently so is undoubtedly rare there.