Welsh Poppy; Meconopsis cantabrica

The Welsh poppy is a native species but the true native population is probably only found in Snowdonia and parts of Ireland. The BSBI suggests that it is only found in 54 of all the one kilometer tetrads that comprise the UK and Ireland and that is in Snowdonia. However the plant has established itself across the UK from garden grown species, especially in Northern regions.

The flowers in my photograph  were growing in Wales but they were at the side of a track and close to some well stocked gardens. They do however show a nice yellow colour which is typical of the wild type. Cultivated strains often are more orange yellow, even almost red. Also they were growing in a damp rocky area and in quite a shady place which is typical. They are perennial plants and often grow out from rocky areas, from between crevices in walls and cracks in paving slabs. Undoubtedly they are not native stock as they were in south Wales, a long way from Snowdon, still they look the part.

The scientific names are interesting. Originally it was named Papaver cantabricum, by Linnaeus, Papaver is the genus that most of the other British species of poppies are in. Later it was renamed Meconopsis because the structure of the stigma is slightly different to other poppies. Subsequently other poppies with a similar shaped stigmas  were found in Asia and the Himalayas. The popular blue poppy which is quite difficult to grow and often simply Meconopsis is one of them.   Recently though DNA analysis has shown that the Welsh poppy is not related to all the other Asian species and is actually related to the members of the Papaver genus. So Linnaeus it seems got it right at the outset. So far some authorities have changed the name back to Papaver and others are thinking about it.

The Welsh Poppy is used as the symbol for the Welsh Nationalist Party Plaid Cymru. they adopted it as their logo in 2006. It replaced the previous logo which featured the Welsh dragon. I have to say their logo is very stylized , they would not win any prizes for botanical drawings!

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