Today’s Botany Photo of the Day is Papaver radicatum, or Arctic poppy. A member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), Papaver radicatum is a common perennial plant found in arctic and alpine regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. According to the Flora of North America, there are four subspecies recognized in the North American flora.
These poppies are hardy, stress-tolerant plants that can survive the harsh conditions found in these environments–somewhat surprising given their outward form, characterized by delicate blooms! They grow in a range of habitats, including dry gravelly soils and meadows. This species is found on the Nunavut coat of arms, signaling its abundance in the northern Canada.
Due to the circumpolar distribution of these species, they are exposed to extended periods of sunlight (24 hours of sunlight in the High Arctic!). The flowers are also parabolic; temperatures are highest in the centre of the flowers because of this, as the sun’s rays are directed inwards. This is important for insect species, as they take advantage of the more favourable conditions found within these flowers. These insects include pollinators, such as Bombus polaris, an Arctic bumblebee species (and one of the main pollinators).
Papaver radicatum is an indicator of climate change in the Arctic. Early flowering has been found to occur with warmer temperatures, which could result in a trophic mismatch (see Mølgaard and Christensen, 1997, Response to experimental warming in a population of Papaver radicatum in Greenland. Global Change Biology, 3:116–124).