Arctic Poppy

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Arctic Poppy

Papaver sp.

When someone thinks of the Arctic, they tend to imagine a place that is cold, harsh and lifeless when the opposite, in fact, is true. The Arctic has a short but productive growing season and during this time you can find some of the most interesting and beautiful plants on the planet.

Image: An Arctic Poppy plant.

3D View: Arctic Poppy
A close up of a yellow Arctic Poppy and its stems.

Why this species is important

The Arctic Poppy (known scientifically as Papaver sp.) is one of the most common plants found in the Arctic region. It is one of three plants featured on the Nunavut coat of arms.  Preferring areas where the vegetation cover is kept open, these yellow, four-petaled flowers grow in almost all High Arctic habitats, except for wetlands.


Tracking the sun

The Arctic Poppy follows the motion of the sun during the day.

See how its flowers can be seen facing the sun as it makes its way across the sky.

An Arctic Poppy plant following the movement of the sun.

Arctic satellite dishes


As the sun moves across the sky, the flower of the Arctic Poppy follows its light and reflects the rays towards the reproductive parts of the plant.  During the Arctic summer, when the sun does not set, the Arctic Poppy faces the sun for a full 24 hours.


A meaningful name


Some plants, besides their scientific name, have different names and importances in various languages and cultures.  The Inuktitut name for poppy, Igutsat niqingit, translates to ‘bumblebee food’ because bumblebees are attracted to the poppy flower.


Botanist to the rescue!


There are many different types of Arctic poppies, many of which look similar to each other.  They can be very hard to differentiate!  Luckily, some botanists (scientists who study plants) specialize in poppies, just as other botanists specialize in other plant groups.  Through collaboration and knowledge-sharing, botany projects benefit a great deal.