Sunday, 1 January 2006

Identifications - Start Here

Evergreen monocarpic with red, yellow or pink flowers and various degrees of leaf division.
Evergreen rosettes in autumn - these start small and gradually grow larger year by year taking between 2 and 5 years to flower. In winter the outer leaves may die but new ones grow from the centre and the whole may end up a metre across in rich damp soil. In spring eventually a flowering spike will arise from the middle and in some species can reach two metres producing hundreds of flowers with up to ten on each side shoot of the main stem. Most of these seen in gardens will be M. 'napaulensis' These are not the true species (see species section) but a hybrid between a number of species particularly the pink M. staintonii. The leaves vary in colour and the degree of lobing.
Evergreen monocarpic with blue/purple flowers and very divided leaves.
The leaf of M wallichii.This group of evergreen monocarpics includes M. wallichii, M wilsonii (3 sub species) and M. violaceae. The descriptions of these are going to be added on the following pages by Professor David Rankin of Edinburgh who knows this group well and has studied M. wilsonii (a newly described species) in the wild. These species all have very divided fern like leaves and blue, mauve or purple flowers (as well as white). They flower later in the summer in gardens and appear not to hybridise with the pink and yellow Himalayan plants in this section They tend to flower at 2 years in gardens. M. violaceae was lost to cultivation many years ago but the others are currently cultivated
Evergreen monocarpic non divided leaves.
The third group (artificial for this website) of evergreen monocarpic plants. These have plain leaves with no lobing throughout their lives and may take 5 years to flower (and then die) This is the one common in cultivation - M. superba and the other two are M. regia (yellow) and M. taylorii (pink). There is a slight mystery over M. taylori; it was found by the Stainton,Sykes and Williams expedition who also found red specimens of M. regia and was hybridised out of existance almost as soon as it was brought into cultivation. Although M superba has recently been photographed in the wild I do not think either M. regia or M. taylori have and the relationship between M. taylori and M. regia may need re-examining.
Classic image of the disk on top of the ovary through which the style projects that defines the sub genus Discogyne. This will only be obvious after the petals have fallen, the rosettes before flowering are single and the leaves fairly distinctive with little or no lobing and not easily confused with the previous three in this section. This is M. tibetica
This, like the previous image is M. tibetica - this time grown by Geoff Hill in cultivation. The Discogyne are always monocarpic (die after flowering) and the rosettes will always be single and at maturity smaller and distinctive from the evergreen monocarpics of the first 3 images on this page.
Big blue and deciduous.
Some of the best known and most beautiful Meconopsis are in this group and if happy often multi-crowned. This is the best of all the hybrids based on the cross between M. grandis and M. betonicifolia and known as Slieve Donard a form of M x Sheldonii which is named after the man who first created it. The cross has been made many times since and many are better than Sheldon's original. This image is taken at the wild garden of the Cox family under a canopy of mature trees and with the air kept moist by a nearby mountain stream. These gardens are open to the general public and combined with a visit to the nearby Branklyn gardens (a few miles up the road in Perth) will show you many Meconopsis species and cultivars at their very best in cultivation
Yellow deciduous.
Another group almost totally winter dormant showing a spring rosette. These are monocarpic and single crowned and the emerging rosettes in spring can be very beautiful. The leaves do not show lobing. This is a rosette of Meconopsis integrifolia.
Yellow deciduous.
The spectacular flowers of M. integrifolia, sadly this dies after flowering but if more than one plant is grown it should set plentiful seed.
Spiny Leaved unlobed.
These are all relatives of what used to be known as M.horridula but is rapidly being split up or new species described. These all have long and short strong spines on both surfaces of the leaves. The leaves may be packed with spines or quite sparsely spiny. The spines may be white, gold or purple and the leaf itself may have tubercles (bumps) at the base of each spine which may also be pigmented from white to dark purple.
Spiny leaved lobed.
Only really two species here, M.speciosa above from eastern Himalaya and China and M. aculeata from Western Himalaya. Again have varying amounts of long and short stiff spines on both surfaces of the leaves.
Softer hairs and purple flowers.
This group of mainly Chinese species is complex and few are in cultivation and then not easy. A new classification is awaiting Chris. Grey-Wilson's new monograph. That illustrated is typical M. lancifolia and the hairs on the leaves differ from the stiff spines of the M. horridula group. This group has deep purple (usually) mauve or occasionally dark blue/purple flowers (plus rare albinos) but one needs to beware of purple/mauve flowers occasionally found in the M. horridula group though none are a really deep purple like most of this group. The sharp spines and soft hairs always distinguish them though sometimes in a rather subtle way.
Small blue miscellaneous.
An image by Margaret Thorne of M. sinuata. Some of this group are of rather insignificant in flower size and plant structure compared to their more extravagant congeners. I suppose there is always the possibility of confusing really poor specimens of different species as well.
Small blue.
M. wumungensis. A recently described species from Yunnan. This plant, though small, has good balance and it would be nice to see it established in cultivation if seed can be obtained. It's relationship with other Meconopsis taxa needs to be established.
In the wild hybridisation is relatively uncommon though there are some rare species described that may in fact be hybrids and need further investigation. In cultivation there are very many; some arising accidentally and others created deliberately. Almost any species seems to be able to hybridise with any other though the off- spring are often sterile and unless the hybrid is perennial they are lost. Sometimes the hybrids show more vigour and the hybrid progeny of monocarpic plants may become perennial. Some hybrids will be difficult to separate from true species if they are fertile. An example would be the wonderful hybrid Lingholm which is in truth a fertile form of the classic M. x Sheldonii that arose when the chromosome count spontaneously doubled and resembles some forms of M. grandis.
An unlikely cross between probably M. horridula and M paniculata but shows anything is possible. This shows the spines of the M. horridula group and the evergreen rosette flowering monocarpically on a tall raceme. This appeared to set fertile looking seed but in fact none germinated.