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|Blue poppy (Meconopsis sp.)|
Meconopsis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Papaveraceae. It was first described by French botanist Viguier in 1814 who named it as poppy-like (from Greek mekon poppy, opsis alike). The species have attractive flowers and have two distinct ranges. A single species, Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy), is indigenous to England, Wales, Ireland, and the fringes of Western Europe, although recent studies suggest that it does not belong in the genus. The other 40 or so (depending on classification) species are found in the Himalayas. Within the Himalayan types there is much debate as to what constitutes a particular species as many readily hybridise with each other and produce viable seed. It is likely that some individually named species are in fact a single species but with an under-appreciated morphological diversity.
A large proportion of species are monocarpic and as such are notoriously difficult to maintain in cultivation.
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Meconopsis grandis, known as the blue poppy, was thought to be the national flower of Bhutan. However, in 2017, after three years of study conducted by the National Biodiversity Centre, Bhutan, and the Blue Poppy Society in Japan, it was found that the national flower of Bhutan was misidentified as Meconopsis grandis. Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan and the earlier Blue Poppy was named based on specimens collected in 1933.
Through field experience and studies, the National Biodiversity Centre noticed the differences. A new species was discovered and it was given a dzongkha name ‘Gakyid (དགའ་སྐྱིད)’. The name was inspired by the concept of Gross National Happiness. So the new species is named as Meconopsis gakyidiana
Another two new species of blue poppy were also discovered in addition to the national flower of Bhutan. They are named as Meconopsis merakensis and Meconopsis elongata. The new species can be found in Merak (མེ་རག), Sagteng (སག་སྟེང་) and Haa (ཧཱ) regions in Bhutan.
In the late spring of 1922, a British Himalayan expedition, led by legendary mountaineer George Leigh Mallory, discovered the plant on their failed attempt to reach the summit of the then-unconquered Mount Everest. The flowers were introduced to much excitement at the Royal Horticultural Society's spring show of 1926. However, since they are difficult to grow, the species has become fabled over the decades. In 2009, horticulturalist and author Bill Terry published his "gardening memoir", Blue Heaven, about the plant.
Himalayan varieties have the reputation for being difficult to grow from seed, but when germinating new plants, using fresh seeds will help. On the other hand, the Welsh Poppy is sometimes considered a weed, albeit a handsome one, due to its vigorous self-seeding. It comes as a surprise to many that poppies are available in shades of blue. These plants are available in a variety of strong colours, including blue, red, orange, purple, white and yellow depending on species and cultivar.
- In: Histoire naturelle, médicale et économique des pavots et argémones, Montpellier, 1814
- Kadereit, Joachim W.; Preston, Chris D. & Valtueña, Francisco J. (2011), "Is Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica (L.) Vig. (Papaveraceae), truly a Meconopsis?", New Journal of Botany, 1 (2): 80–87, doi:10.1179/204234811X13194453002742
- "National Flower Renamed as Meconopsis Gakidiana". BBS news. Retrieved 31 August 2018.