The National Flower of Bhutan found to be a New Species!

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The National Flower of Bhutan commonly known as Blue Poppy and scientifically known as Meconopsis grandis subsp. orientalis has been upgraded to a species rank with a distinctly Bhutanese name Meconopsis gakyidiana T. Yoshida, R. Yangzom & D.G. Long, inspired by the developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness, published in Sibbaldia– The Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture No. 14 (December 2016, https://journals.rbge.org.uk/index.php/rbgesib/article/view/193).

Meconopsis gakyidiana, though previously considered to be a subspecies of Meconopsis grandis, was found to be different from the typical Meconopsis grandis in several important characters such as plant life form, leaf arrangement, leaf colour, shape of the flower, colour of the petal etc, thereby warranting a separate identity of species rank. Currently, this species is recorded from Eastern Bhutan, Western Arunachal Pradesh of India, as well as Southern Xizang (Tibet) of China and grows at an elevation of 3700- 4300 metres above sea level (masl).

In addition to the change in the taxonomic rank of the National Flower of Bhutan, two species of blue poppy new to science were also discovered through collaborative research between the   National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) and the Blue Poppy Society of Japan. The new species Meconopsis merakensis T. Yoshida, R. Yangzom and D.G.Long published in Sibbaldia– The Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture No. 14.(December 2016, https://journals.rbge.org.uk/index.php/rbgesib/article/view/193), has two varieties, var. merakensis and var. albolutea T.Yoshida, R.Yangzom & D.G. Long. Currently, var. merakensis is known only from Merak and Sakteng region of Eastern Bhutan while var. albolutea which differs from the other variety in having a white or yellow petal is also known to be found in Western Arunachal Pradesh, India.

The other new species Meconopsis elongata T. Yoshida, R. Yangzom & D.G Long, published in September 2016 issue of The Plantsman (https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/pdfs/publications/The-Plantsman/2012/june/A-new-species-of-blue-poppy) is currently known only from Haa region of Bhutan, at an elevation of 3750 to 4300 masl.

With the recent discovery and publication of three new species, the current statistics of Meconopsis stands at 15, with three species being endemic to Bhutan.

These discoveries are the results of several intensive botanical excursions and field work carried out as part of the collaborative research and partnership between the National Biodiversity Centre, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan and the Blue Poppy Society of Japan.

 

By: The National Biodiversity Centre, Serbithang, MoAF

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