It has been discovered that the national flower, the Blue Poppy is a new species to science with the discovery of two more new species of the Meconopsis : Meconopsis elongata and Meconopsis merakensis.

Meconopsis elongata is also endemic to Bhutan.

The national flower has been renamed as Meconopsis gakyidiana from Meconopsis grandis before. The blue poppy now has been upgraded to a species. Earlier, the national flower was misidentified as a subspecies to Meconopsis grandis.

The Maconopsis gakyidiana was named after the country’s guiding development philosophy Gross National Happiness. Gakyid stands for “Happiness” and diana is the nomenclature term for the flower.

National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) senior biodiversity officer, Choki Gyeltshen said that the common name for the national flower in both English and Dzongkha however remains unchanged. The name of Meconopsis gakyidiana is still Blue Poppy in English and Tshengenmeto in Dzongkha.

NBC’s curator of herbarium, Rinchen Yangzom said the scientific name has been changed because the national flower is not Meconopsis grandis.  It has been found that Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan.

“We don’t have grandis anymore, they are found only in Nepal,” she said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests stated on its website that Meconopsis gakyidiana was found to be different from the typical Meconopsis grandis in several important characters such as plant life form, leaf arrangement, leaf colour, shape of the flower and colour of the petal. “Thereby warranting a separate identity of species rank,” it is stated.

The researchers also found that the Meconopsis gakyidiana is found only in Merak and Sakteng in Bhutan. “Meconopsis, which are similar in colour and are found in Paro, Haa and Bumthang are not Meconopsis gakyidiana, which people misunderstand with the national flower,” Rinchen Yangzom said.

Currently, the national flower is also recorded in western Arunachal Pradesn in India and Tibet.

Of the two new species of Meconopsis, one bearing the scientific name, Meconopsis merakensis is found in Merak and Sakteng. Meconopsis elongata is found in Paro and Haa.

With the discovery of Meconopsis gakyidiana, Meconopsis elongata and Meconopsis merakensis, Bhutan now has 15 Meconopsis species. Three of the Meconopsis species, Meconopsis bhutanica, Meconopsis superba and Meconopsis elongata are endemic to Bhutan.

In December last year, the Meconopsis research works of photographer and amateur botanist from Chiba, Japan, T Yoshida, Rinchen Yangzom and DG Long from UK were published in “Sibbaldia”, a journal of botanic gardens and horticulture based in the United Kingdom.

Tempa Wangdi