The genus Meconopsis is a small plant group and was originally based on the Welsh Poppy Meconopsis cambrica. All the other Meconopsis are Himalayan. M. cambrica was seperated from the genus Papaver in 1814 by Viguier based on the presence of a short style and the lack of a stigmatic disc surrounding the ovary. It seems clear that the similarity between the Welsh poppy which is European and the Himalayan ones is convergence and that they are not closely related. Technically, M. cambrica has precedence for the name but thankfully taxonomists appear to be going to keep Meconopsis for the 'blue' poppies and probably invent Pseudomeconopsis for cambrica. M. chelonidifolia and villosa have been removed to the genus Cathcartia. This account will only deal with the Himalayan poppies.
George Taylor wrote a monograph based on herbarium material in 1934 that became the standard. He later travelled to the Himalayas and saw them in the wild. Taylor realised there was much variation and lumped together numbers of quite different plants in single species. In the last twenty years much of Himalayas has become more accessible and in particular the Chinese mountains to the east. Dr. Chris Grey-Wilson of Kew and now editor of the Alpine Garden Society Journal has been totally revising the classification and in particular reinstating some of Taylors' throw outs. This is the classification that this account will use. Grey-Wilsons' work is ongoing and there are new species still being described.
Himalayan Meconopsis can be divided into 3 groups. Plants with spiny leaves ( sometimes very spiny ! ) that are deciduous and monocarpic ( die after flowering ). The flowers are usually blue or purple. This group occurs right across the Himalayas from Kashmir right into China. This includes M. horridula ( the current classification has this as the very high altitude form characterised by only basal shapes ). Many of the purple species are Chinese and so far have proved rather difficult to grow in cultivation. The second group again are monocarpic but are evergreen and the classic winter rosette species. They may flower as biennials but can take up to 5 years. There are then a number of potentially perennial species like M. grandis, M. betonicifolia and M. quintuplinervia as well as monocarpic plants like M. punicea and M. integrifolia.