The national flower as described on NTOB site, M. grandis, is now to be called M. gakydiana, derived from the Dzongkha word for happiness, gakyid, to reflect Bhutan’s important cultural aspiration of ‘gross national happiness’.
Meconopsis elongata at Tsabjo La, Haa district, W Bhutan, 4050 m
Blue Poppy, or Meconopsis, is a flower of the Himalaya, and the national flower of Bhutan. Recently, four new species of Meconopsis have been found in Bhutan.
Meconopsis bhutanica is endemic to western Bhutan and occurs only in a limited area south of Mt. Chomolhari. The flower colour is pale blue variously tinged with purple. This species had been incorrectly included in M. discigera by Taylor in the past. However, the latter, M. discigera, has pale-yellow flowers. This group (subgenus) of Meconopsis is characterized by the disc-like appendage covering the top of the ovary.
Meconopsis elongata is also endemic to western Bhutan, occurring in Haa and adjacent regions of Paro and Thimphu districts. The flower is blue to purple with a reddish tint. The specific name was derived from the elongated, whitish strings of vascular bundles protruding from the tip of the filaments and also from the elongated narrow racemes. The picture of a stamp once issued by Bhutan Post with the name Meconopsis horridula seems to be this species, which grows on Chelei la, the ridge between Haa and Paro districts.
Meconopsisbhutanica at Tsho Phu, Paro district, W Bhutan, 4400 m
Meconopsis gakydiana occurs in eastern Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh in India, and southern Tibet. This species had been incorrectly included in the past as M. grandis by Prain or its subspecies orientalis by Grey-Wilson. According to the National Tourism Organization of Bhutan (NTOB) official site, ‘The national flower is the Blue Poppy (Meconopsis grandis). It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with white filaments. It grows to a height of one metre, and is found above the tree line (3500-4500 m) on rocky mountain terrain. It was discovered in 1933 by a British botanist, George Sherriff, in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.’
Meconopsis gakyidiana at Merak, E Bhutan, 4,000 m
Meconopsis merakensis variety merakensis at Merak, E Bhutan, 4350 m
The national flower as described on NTOB site, M. grandis, is now to be called M. gakydiana, derived from the Dzongkha word for happiness, gakyid, to reflect Bhutan’s important cultural aspiration of ‘gross national happiness’. The most important origin of garden varieties of Meconopsis cultivated in English gardens and collectively called Himalayan Blue Poppies is said to be ‘George Sherriff 600’. These were collected by G. Sherriff in the Sakteng region, and are now included in M. gakyidiana.
Meconopsis merakensis occurs in eastern Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, India. This species had been incorrectly included in M. prainiana of Kingdon-Ward in the past. The type M. merakensis is endemic to eastern Bhutan and has blue-purple flowers, whereas the variety albolutea occurs in eastern Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh and has white or pale-yellow flowers. The specific name has been derived from the regional name, Merak, from easternmost Bhutan.
A brief note on the discovery of new species of Meconopsis (blue poppies) and correction of species’ names.
TOSHIO YOSHIDA is a botanist and photographer with a special interest in Meconopsis. He lives in Chiba, Japan.
Yoshida T. & Grey-Wilson C. (2012). A new species of blue poppy. The Plantsman 11(2): 96-101.
Yoshida T., Yangzom R. & Long D. G. (2016). A new species of Meconopsis. The Plantsman 15(3) : 177-181.
Yoshida T., Yangzom R. & Long D. G. (2016). Dancing butterflies of the east Himalayas – New Meconopsis species from east Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh and south Tibet. Sibbaldia 14: 69-96.