Meconopsis Visual Reference Guide. Includes Photos, Taxonomy And Cultivation Information.
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Transplanting Meconopsis seedlings.
Grow seedlings in a deep pot (7 1/2 cms). and use a loose peat based (or peat substitute) compost and it helps if Perlite (inert expanded rock) is added to keep it light and airey and so that the compost almost falls off when the are pricked on. With rare or scarce seedlings pot on into individual 7 cms. pots and with larger numbers prick on into well filled seed trays. The potting on compost should again be light and airy but should contain some nutrients in the form of slow release granules or a standard fertilizer like Growmore. As soon as the roots fill the pot and the plants are about 6 cms. high they can be planted out where they are to flower. They can also be kept in the pots for up to a year and then planted out but, if so, it benefits them during the growing season to be watered occasionally with half strength Tomorite (tomato fertiliser). Hold seedlings by the very tips of a leaf and shake compost in around them. Watering them will pack the compost round the roots. There are a number of exceptions. Meconopsis punicea and M. quintuplinervia need sowing as soon as ripe (see description of proceedure under M. punicea in main website) and M. delavayi tends to develop a rot if handled and should be grown on in 71/2 cms. pots for 2 years and then the whole pot planted out. This species forms a tap root and should not be disturbed. The germination of this last species is generally very reliable and only 3 or 4 seeds should be sown in each pot - again see main website for more details.
What I have grown under this name was clearly a hybrid. These are tall
evergreen monocarpic plants which send a racemose flowering spike up a metre and a half to 2
metres with up to 6 flowers on each flowering side shoot from main stem (panicles).
The foliage varies from gold to grey and flowers from deep yellow, through
pinks to almost black red and is variable lobed but never pinnatafid. As now classified
M. napaulensis is a yellow flowered
plant about 1 metre high. Seed is readily available and usually germinates well
and they like rich ground and will normally flower at 3 or 4 years and then die
– and if more than 1 plant with a good seed set. M paniculata. This
is like the above but normally yellow and as the name suggests flowers after a
few years as an attractive evergreen rosettes to a racemose flowering spike up
to 2 metres maybe even a little more. The stigma is mauve coloured. There were
two forms in cultivation from different parts of the Himalayas – one with acid
yellow /green foliage and the other with grey foliage both covered in fine
hairs. Red flowered specimens have been reported both recently and in the past
but I am opening minded about whether these should be directed to this species.
Another easy species widely available and would probably succeed with care in
the south U.K. perhaps covered with a pane of glass in winter. M. pinnatifolia.
Recently described relative of M.
discigera from the Discogyne.
Seed has been available but here I only grew them on for a few months. M. prainiana. One
of the M. horridula relatives split
off by Chris Grey –Wilson. Have germinated this but not grown it on. Images of
this look very nice and it would be desirable, probably possible north of the border
but seed would be difficult to obtain. M. prattii.
Another relative of M. horridula from
China. Very easy probably anywhere in the U.K. Often in cultivation a washed
blue mauve but an interesting and attractive plant. Seed germinates well and
pricked on plants grow quickly and usually flower as a biennial. M. pseudointegrifolia.
See integrifolia M. punicea. An
extra-ordinary plant with clear scarlet flowers and the one that I grow well
here. A real holy grail when I became involved in Meconopsis and then Peter Cox of Glendoick in Tayside managed to be
on the first plant hunting expedition allowed back into China for many years.
He re -established this plant and gave me seed but I promtly lost the plants
and he gave me some seed from his seed bank and this time I had learned my
lessons. It needs sowing as soon as ripe. That is watch the capsules every day
and the moment they naturally start to split open sow the seed thinly in large
pans in damp peaty compost and cover in 2 to 3 mm of fine grit. Place trays in
total shade, cool and under cover with netting of only 3 to 4 mm mesh over and
then cover with about 10cms of damp spoil/peat. This should be kept undercover
from rain but the topping of soil always kept moist. This is brought out at the
beginning of January, the soil and netting removed and seed pans placed where
they can be gently warmed by a soils warming cable below which is turned on at
the end of January. They often germinate without heat. I expect at least 90%
germination. They will germinate if harvested when fully ripe and sown normally
in spring but usually only a fraction will come. This year I had a poor harvest
and was given seed mid-July which was sown immediately. As I write in late
February about 2 seeds have germinated while my own seedlings are throwing
their first true leaves. M. quintuplinervia.
A purple but usually perennial close relative of the above – the harebell poppy
of Farrer. One of the great garden plants. Relatively few clones in cultivation
but easily vegetatively propagated. Colour from clear mauve to almost blue and
different clones produce flowers of different sizes. From seed it needs
treating like M. punicea but seed is
rarely obtainable. M. regia. Big
yellow flowered evergreen monocarpic with large non pinnate grey leaves. A red
form has been reported. My early plants hybridized with M. ‘napaulensis’ types. If we are to conserve a recollection needs
growing in isolation. M. robusta. A tall
yellow relative of the above with small flowers widely spaced and usually 1 to
each side stem. What is called’ biological interest only’!M. rudis – see M. horridula
Named for a great plant collector and a wonderful plant like a pink M.
integrifolia. George Sherriff was one of the great Meconopsis collectors and
gardened at Ascrievie in Tayside. My first garden visit with the Scottish Rock
Garden club was to Ascrievie and I did meet Betty Sherriff, his wife, who
showed us round the garden. A Himalayan plant now I think sadly out of
cultivation. However in the 1930’s a pink M.
integrifolia was described from China – this sounds mighty like M. sherriffii.
Can be brilliant blue plants some of which are perennial. Really like a M. grandis but ALL flowers on basal
scapes never a raceme. Many forms – some much more difficult than others very
much depending on where collected with high altitude specimens as always more
difficult. I flowered 4 different seed collections last year but a cold wet
summer meant no seed set and few have survived flowering. A very desirable
species. M. staintonii. This
is really where all the coloured M. ‘napaulensis’
have come from. Named after the collector Adam Stainton and a monocarpic
evergreen with tall racemes of pink or red flowers. M.
The exception to the rule that cross fertilisation is essential to set seed.
This happily sets massive amounts of seed from a single plant. Maybe all in
cultivation have a very limited genetic diversity – but they still set seed. I
have always covered these plants every winter with glass so that the rosette
centre is dry but they plant has plenty of moisture. Takes up to 5 years to
flower and has wonderful white flowers of a good size on racemose flowering stem.
The image below is the first bloom of M. punicea for 2013.
This is an item to check the function of my website and blog. The garden is a month late compared to last year, with little germination of last year's Meconopsis seed sowings. The erythroniums are just coming out and this is a rare species Erythronium sibericum. Very beautiful and comes through the soil in full flower.
M. dhwojii. One of the evergreen monocarpics. Recently recollected. Typified by foliage and spines with purple pigment round the base. Similar to M. gracilipes.
M. discigera. This is one of six species in a different section that is distinguished by a flat disc between the style and the ovary. Until recently there were only two Discogyne, M. discigera and the rare high altitude species from near Llasa called M. torquata. M. discigera I grew for some years and eventually flowered -but not easy here but rare and localized M. torquata would be very difficult. Of the new ones described M. tibetica is reasonably low altitude with maroon red flowers and I have flowered it but without setting seed. There is a problem with many of the Meconopsis under regions controlled by the Chinese. They have a substantial history of herbal medicine. In the past much of this would have been collected and used locally. There is no doubt that most plants have evolved complex chemicals and indeed much has been and is used in western medicine. In China the use many natural products of plants and animals is built into their economy and way of life but with areas now opened up with easy fast access, over collection and exploitation is already a problem. To be fair the Chinese have many really good plant scientists but who tend to concentrate on useful plants and they also have set aside large areas as reserves. Outside Chinese influence Bhutan has very strict controls on its flora and a ban on collecting anything. Increasingly much of the rest of the Himalayas that is accessible is beginning to realize the value of intact wildlife as a tourist asset which is pleasing but of course the downside of this that tourism makes great demands on all sorts resources in many different ways.
M. gracilipes. An evergreen monocarpic with divided leaves –like an M. dhwojii without the purple pigment. The trouble with both these species is that they hybridize with other evergreen monocarpics and the progeny are sterile. The cross between M. dhwojii and M. ‘napaulensis’ is M. x. ramsdeniorum which has little value and is sterile. Crosses between species that produce sterile hybrids are a real long term problem with keeping species in cultivation long term. Doing this may be an important conservation tool long term and needs serious thought.
M. grandis. The ultimate big blue poppy. For people who want big blue poppies in their garden this is not the solution. The hybrid Lingholm is easy, very perennial, comes easily from mass produced seed and is the solution used in some hot parts of the USA to allow plantsmen to have big blue poppies. There have been a number of wild collections of this species. I still grow the dwarf growing Sikkim form and the very large Kanchenjunga form KEKE with flowers 10 inches across. I have grown other forms but here anyway they gradually became less fertile. Grows much better in Caithness where I maintain mine but possible in all of north Britain. Has a slightly strange and discontinuous distribution in the Himalayas. (I am not certain if the early Sikkim form did actually come from there – it resembles the out lying subspecies from Jumla in west Nepal.) Chris Grey-Wilson has published a recent paper splitting M. grandis into 3 subspecies.
M. henricii. Have germinated this but not taken it much farther. All these purple flowered monocarpic species from China are difficult except possibly in very northern Europe.
H. horridula. The easiest in the U.K. BUT only if you have the right form. Has now been split into at include at least 9 species, particularly by Yoshida. To be fair George Taylor lumped a lot of these together under M. horridula so it is a case of what goes around comes around! M. prattii which is from low altitude in Yunnan and elsewhere and is extremely easy and the one that will grow probably anywhere in the U.K. It can be a good dark blue with white anthers and is always racemose. It generally flowers as a biannual and there is a white form. M. racemosa is a Himalayan species that has good blue flowers and golden anthers. At high altitudes above 5,000 metres it is scapose and this is now regarded as the true M. horridula, it has been flowered from plants brought back but they were shadows of the plant in the wild and again emphasise that plants from that sort of height are difficult in the U.K. and as it comes down the mountain it becomes racemose and known as M. racemosa – personally I find this unsatisfactory! Meconopsis rudis is another common low altitude species from China and easily grown. In theory it is distinguished by purple bases to the spines on broad coarse leaves. I bought wild collected seed of this 3 years ago and about half the plants were absolutely characteristic but the other half just had plain broad green leaves and large golden spines but no purple pigment. Thus the purple pigment is not diagnostic but it is a very distinct taxa. The others which I do not think are in cultivation were largely plants from Yunnan and are really variations on M. prattii with perhaps slightly indented edges to the leaves or wine red flowers. These might possibly be growable but at the moment seed collecting in China is not allowed. Perhaps I should add that separating and naming these various forms is not easy and even serious plant collectors are uneasy about naming some.
M. impedita. Another attractive purple flowered species from China, again a monocarpic winter dormant relative of M. horridula. I have germinated seed but could not take it farther. Has been flowered by the Rankin’s at nurseries near Edinburgh.
M. integrifolia. Taylor considered this a single species but has more recently been split into this and M. pseudointegrifolia. This, like M. horridula complex is probably best considered a super species. In the farthest north in China where it occurs it is dwarf, mainly scapose and a deep rich yellow with upright facing flowers. As one travels south it becomes taller, more racemose, paler yellow and with drooping flowers. Has been split into sub species by Chris Grey-Wilson but this really does not help since it is almost infinitely variable. In Yunnan I found it at 3,300 metres as typical tall pale yellow drooping M. pseudointegrifolia and as I climbed up to about 4,400 metres it became typical scapose, dwarf and bright yellow with upward flowers! Seed from a lot of the range of this plant is still available and some comes from cultivated plants. It is generally easily grown and I flowered 4 quite different collections last year of M. integrifolia although none were of the classic far north form. Except for the tallest and most straggly pseudointegrifolia it is a wonderful plant to grow and even the former is still well worth it. It is normally monocarpic so reliable seed set in cultivation is important.
M. lancifolia. A very variable purple Chinese relative of M. horridula (is monocarpic with very spiny leaves) Like most of the purple species from this area possible in those parts of Scotland where Meconopsis grow well but not for south of the border.
M. latifolia. To my mind the best of all the species. Easy from seed with large wide prickly leaves and a raceme of large pale blue flowers (another monocarpic M. horridula relative) This comes from Kashmir and may for political reasons be difficult to recollect. A few years ago – quite extra-ordinarily it hybridized with another mec species and the seedlings were sterile and is now almost certainly lost unless plants hang on in parts of Norway. Just a vague hope that someone from Kashmir has relatives in the U.K. who are interested in plants but even so I suspect this species only grows in remote areas. Just maybe there is seed in a seed bank somewhere and could be regenerated in this way! M. longipetiolata. A tall M. napaulensis type monocarpic evergreen. Meant to be distinguished by long petioles. Not difficult if fresh seed available that is true.
This image was recently taken at Branklyn Gardens in Perth. It is in a bed of 'Meconopsis napaulensis' hybrids but resembles the Himalayan species M. regia. This last species has large evergreen rosettes and takes up to 4 years to flower. M. regia was in cultivation some years ago but hybridized almost at once with similar evergreen monocarpic plants (like M. paniculata and M. staintonii).It should be noted, as explained on the main website, that true M. napaulensis is now considered to be restricted to a small area of the Himalayas and is one of the least tall of this group of evergreen monocarpics.