Arctic poppy (Papaver laestadianum)

Arctic poppy in habitat
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Arctic poppy fact file

Arctic poppy description

GenusPapaver (1)

The Arctic poppy (Papaver laestadianum) is a rare, endemic, perennial plant species found only in the harsh, Arctic conditions of the northernmost parts of Scandinavia. The solitary flower head consists of four vibrant yellow petals, supported by an erect stem which is long and narrow and has thick, spreading black hairs. Within the cup-shaped flower are five stigma protruding from a flat disk (1) (2).

 The leaves growing in a dense rosette around the base of the stem are lance-shaped and pinnate. The flowering stems of the Arctic poppy are around ten centimetres long, but the rest of the plant is relatively low-growing (1) (2) (3).

Papaver radicatum.
Stem length: 10 cm (2)

Arctic poppy biology

The leaves of the Arctic poppy stay green throughout winter, an adaptation to its extreme surroundings. The leaves develop throughout the summer and are able to survive through the winter without withering, retaining their green colouration. As soon as the weather becomes warmer and sunlight is present, the leaves will begin photosynthesis and new leaves become functional, at which point the older leaves will wither, creating a continuous cycle (3).

The air inside the flower of the Arctic poppy rises to several degrees warmer than the outside temperature when the sun is shining. This happens because of the cup-shaped flowers, which focus the sun’s rays onto the centre of the flower and make it a desirable area for flying insects. The bright yellow flowers of the Arctic poppy follow the sun continuously (3), turning to track the daily movements of the sun. This concentrates solar heat on the ovary, warming and speeding the growth of the developing seeds (7).

 The Arctic poppy is self-pollinating, creating fertilised seeds with low germination rates (2) (3) (8).


Arctic poppy range

The Arctic poppy is restricted to small, mountainous areas in the northernmost regions of Norway and Sweden, where it is endemic. It is known from six to seven locations in Norway and two in Sweden (1) (2) (4).


Arctic poppy habitat

The Arctic poppy is present in alpine and subalpine calcareous tundra at high altitudes (1) (5). These sites are open, monotonous expanses consisting mainly of shattered rock, rubble and gravel, with discontinuous plant cover and a covering of frost. They are mostly inaccessible and uninfluenced by man (2) (4) (6).

 The Arctic poppy often grows on a north-facing slope in fine, loose, moist and calcareous soil, with the slope enabling the soil to drain well once the snow begins to melt in warmer weather (2) (5).


Arctic poppy status

The Arctic poppy is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Arctic poppy threats

The Arctic poppy is vulnerable to temperature increases, and global climate change is therefore a major threat to populations of this species and to its habitat (1).


Arctic poppy conservation

In Sweden, the Arctic Poppy is protected by special regulations which prohibit removing or causing damage to the plant (2). There are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently in place for this rare Arctic species.


Find out more

Find out more about the Arctic poppy, its habitat and plant conservation:



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Containing calcium carbonate, chalky.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
Part of the female reproductive organ (the gynoecium) in flowering plants.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
In plants, a compound leaf where the leaflets (individual ‘leaves’) are found on either side of the central stalk.
The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part) of a flower, to the stigma (female part) of the same flower, or a different flower on the same plant.
The part of the female reproductive organ of a flower which receives the pollen, and on which the pollen germinates (starts growing).
Treeless, grassy plains characteristic of Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. They are very cold and have little rainfall.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Lucas, G. and Synge, H. (1978) The IUCN Plant Red Data Book: Comprising Red Data Sheets on 250 Selected Plants Threatened on a World Scale. IUCN, Morges.
  3. Pielou, E.C. (1994) A Naturalist’s Guide to the Arctic. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  4. Spellerberg, I.F. (1994) Evaluation and Assessment for Conservation: Ecological Guidelines for Determining Priorities for Nature Conservation. Springer Publications, New York.
  5. Dowdeswell, J.A. and Hambrey, M.J. (2002) Islands of the Arctic. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  6. IUCN (1993) Oil and Gas Exploration and Production in Arctic and Subarctic Onshore Regions: Guidelines For Environmental Protection. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.
  7. Rafferty, J.P. (2011) The Living Earth. The Rosen Publishing Group, New York.
  8. Heinrich, B. (1993) The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation. Harvard University Press, Harvard.

Image credit

Arctic poppy in habitat  
Arctic poppy in habitat

© B. & C. Alexander /

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