Meconopsis cambrica, the Welsh poppy, is a perennial flowering plant in the poppy family Papaveraceae. It has yellow to orange flowers and is widely grown as a garden plant. It is a native of damp, rocky sites in upland areas of Western Europe from the British Isles to the Iberian Peninsula. It has been used since 2006 as the basis for the logo of the political party Plaid Cymru.
Meconopsis cambrica has pinnately divided leaves composed of pinnately divided leaflets. The plant can grow between 30–60 cm (12–24 in) tall. It blooms between June and July. The flower is distinctively yellow or orange with four petals, and coarsely hairy green sepals that fall off soon after the flower opens. It spreads easily from the numerous small black seeds produced in the summer, from a long, ribbed capsule that opens with flaps.
Meconopsis cambrica is endemic to upland areas of Western Europe; it is found natively in the mountains of the Iberian Peninsula, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and some western parts of the British Isles (Wales, south-western England and parts of Ireland). It has, however, been widely naturalised outside its native range.
Meconopsis cambrica lives in damp, shady places on rocky ground. In its most western locations, it is increasingly found on more open ground with less cover. It is especially well adapted to colonising gaps and crevices in rocks and stones. This habit has enabled it to colonise the urban environment, growing between paving slabs and at the edges of walls.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
The species was originally named by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 Species Plantarum as Papaver cambricum. In 1814, Louis Viguier separated it from Papaver, making it the type species of the new genus Meconopsis. One of the reasons was the structure of the style: Papaver has unstalked stigmas, arranged in a disc shape, whereas M. cambrica has stigmatic surfaces at the end of a distinct style. Later, many newly discovered species from the Himalayas and adjacent regions of China were added to the genus. M. cambrica is the only species that is native to Europe.
However, a molecular phylogenetic study published in 2011 showed that M. cambrica is not related to other species of Meconopsis, but is instead nested within Papaver, suggesting that Linnaeus' original name should be restored. However, this would leave the genus Meconopsis without a type species and hence without a valid name, unless the name were to be conserved. This name change has already been accepted by 'The Plant List' (which is becoming the international arbiter of plant names) and by the RHS 'Plant Finder'.
In human culture
- D. Prain (1906). "A review of the genera Meconopsis and Cathcartia". Annals of Botany. old series. 20 (4): 323–370. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.aob.a089107.
- Clive A. Stace (2010). "Meconopsis Vig. – Welsh poppy". New Flora of the British Isles (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 978-0-521-70772-5.
- Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain. Reader's Digest. 1981. p. 33. ISBN 9780276002175.
- Francisco J. Valtueña, Chris D. Preston & Joachim W. Kadereit (2012). "Phylogeography of a Tertiary relict plant, Meconopsis cambrica (Papaveraceae), implies the existence of northern refugia for a temperate herb". Molecular Ecology. 21 (6): 1423–1437. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05473.x. PMID 22320448.
- 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
- "Plaid image change 'a new start'". BBC News. 24 February 2006. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Media related to Meconopsis cambrica at Wikimedia Commons