Bhutan’s National Flower finally identified

Usha Drukpa

According to reports from the biodiversity research activities, it has been found out that the National Flower of Bhutan, blue poppy, scientifically known as Meconopsis grandis in Bhutan was misunderstood as the national flower. The true national flower is Meconopsis gakyidiana, which is a new species.

 Sources said that the name has a Bhutanese connection. The word gakyid mean happiness which reflected Bhutan’s important cultural aspiration of Gross National Happiness.

According to Researcher David Long, true Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan. It is found in Sikkim and East Nepal. However, Meconopsis gakyidiana is found in Eastern Bhutan and the Tibetan border, apart from the valleys of Merak and Sakteng.

It grows at an altitude of 4000 meters above the sea level surrounded by yellow-flowered known as Meconopsis paniculata.

According to one of the authors of a Journal on poppy, this species was previously described as Meconopsis grandis subspecies, orientalis. The origin discovery of the current national flower was somewhat mysterious. One of the main problems in identifications was the natural hybridization.

Meanwhile, in addition with the national flower of Bhutan another two new species of blue poppies were being discovered by the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Thimphu and Blue Poppy Society, Japan.

These two new species are new to science and they are described as Meconopsis merakensis found in and around Merak-Sakteng and Meconopsis elongata in Haa region. Meconopsis elongata has a spine-like and prickly hairs. It could be cultivated much easier than other blue poppies.

Bhutan is also host of an endemic white poppy (Meconopsis superba) found in the Nature reserve of Haa. Most of the blue poppy species grow above 3,000 meters above sea level.

Regarding the national flower of Bhutan (currently Meconopsis grandis), there has been some misinterpretation of the name, geographical areas and altitudinal range.

According to another authors of the Journal, the photographic records states that Meconopsis was existed some 57 years back. The specimens were photographed from the same area by few botanists in 1949.

It was also learned that Haa district was opened to foreigners in 2001 and more tourists as well as researchers were intensively allowed to visit Haa after producing the route permit and same goes to the Merak-Sakteng region, located in the far-east and share international border with China and India.

The discovery of this new species of blue poppies was the result of several intensive botanical excursions and previous exploration, with collaboration between the National Biodiversity Centre in Bhutan and Blue Poppy Society in Japan.

A species of blue poppy that is new to science has been discovered in Merak-Sakteng and Haa region by the team consisting Rinchen Yangzom of NBC, Toshio Yoshida, a botanist in Chiba, Japan and David Long of Royal Botanical Gardem Edinburg, United Kingdom and a former co-author of Flora of Bhutan and in addition few officials from NBC such as Choki Gyeltshen, Rinchen Dorji and Choki Wangmo were also involved in the field survey, specimen collections and field identifications.

Meanwhile the total of 15 species of Meconopsis was recorded in Bhutan. And three meconopsis bhutanica, meconopsis superba and meconopsis elongata are endemic to Bhutan.

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