The Blue Poppy, National Flower of Bhutan

The Blue Poppy, the National Flower of Bhutan, is known locally as ‘Euitgel Metog Hoem’. Its biological name was Meconopsis grandis (Papaveraceae). At one time, people considered this plant to be a myth because its existence had not been confirmed but they can be found along high mountain passes from the far eastern parts of the country across to the west.

Recently in 2017, after three years of study (reference) conducted by the National Biodiversity Centre, Bhutan, and the Blue Poppy Society in Japan, it was found that the national flower of Bhutan was misidentified as Meconopsis grandis. Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan and the earlier Blue Poppy was named based on specimens collected in 1933.

Through field experience and studies, the National Biodiversity Centre noticed the differences. A new species was discovered and it was given a dzongkha name ‘Gakyid (དགའ་སྐྱིད)’. The name was inspired by the concept of Gross National Happiness. So the new species is named as Meconopsis gakyidiana.

Another two new species of blue poppy were also discovered in addition to the national flower of Bhutan. They are named as Meconopsis merakensis and Meconopsis elongata. The new species can be found in Merak (མེ་རག), Sagteng (སག་སྟེང་) and Haa (ཧཱ) regions in Bhutan.

Today, it is one of the rarest flowers in the world. Indeed, the country is blessed with rich bounties of nature: over 800 known species of butterflies, 800+species of birds, more than 5000 species of plants including 500+ species of orchids, and 50 species of rhododendron alone. Additionally, it has more than 200 species of mammals not to mention other plants and animals that are yet to be discovered. For more information about the orchids of Bhutan, you can peruse my friend Susanne Masters’ recent publication – Orchids of Bhutan.

Himalayan Blue Poppy grows to a height of up to 1 meter on the rocky mountain terrain, above the tree line at altitudes of 3500m to 4500m. Bhutanese tradition links this flower with the yeti of lore. The flower was discovered in 1933 by British botanist George Sherriff in remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.

Although related to the opium poppy Papaver somniferum, the blue poppies do not produce opium.