CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Arctomecon humilis

Daniela Roth

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Arctomecon humilis

Common Names: 
Colville bearclaw poppy, dwarf bearclaw poppy, dwarf bear-poppy
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Arctomecon humilisenlarge
Photographer: Daniela Roth
Image Owner: FWS  
image owner website

Arctomecon humilis is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Sylvia Torti contributed to this Plant Profile.

Arctomecon humilis

This species of poppy is one of the rarest in the world, and was in fact one of the first species in the United States to be listed as federally endangered in 1979. Today, this species exists in only seven small locations outside of St. George, Utah, a city with a rapidly growing population. This suburban growth is one of the major threats to the species, but botanists have been so far successful in maintaining this species in the wild. In 1998, The Nature Conservancy was able to purchase a small parcel of land that contained most of one of these seven remaining populations, thus saving it from a new housing development. While this is a success story, the threats to the species continue because this population, and many of the other remaining populations, are now surrounded by development. One of the key factors in saving this species from extinction will be educating the public of the plight of this and other species, motivating individuals to aid in conservation efforts.

The flowers of this gorgeous poppy plant have four petals that are often crumpled. Seeds germinate in the Spring, depending on rainfall. Seeds are produced in capsules and are dropped from the plant when they are still immature. Maturity may take several years in the soil. Seeds are dispersed by ants. One population of poppies has been found to harbor three new and undescribed chemicals of medicinal value.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Arctomecon humilis
  These plants are found in warm desert shrub communities. They exist only in the gypsum rich soils on the Shnabkaib, Middle Red, Upper Red, and Shinarump members of the Moenkopi Formation, between elevations of 2700 and 3300 feet.

  Washington County, Utah

Number Left
  The population has dwindled to just 7 small locations east and south of St. George. (Smith 1998)


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Utah S1 6/1/1998  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  This species is pollinated by the honey bee, a rare species of Tetralonia, and an undescribed species of Perdita.
Seeds are dispersed by ants.

  Road construction
Off-road vehicles
Rapid expansion of a nearby retirement community, as well as general suburban growth
Development of an airport

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1985

Current Research Summary
  The bearclaw poppy is monitored on an annual basis by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Red Butte Garden is conducting research on seed propagation and tissue culture.
Allphin et al. (1998) have studied the populations genetics of this species, which will aid in its conservation.
Harper et al. (2000) have studied the demographics and reproductive biology of the species.

Current Management Summary
  One population of the poppy is managed by The Nature Conservancy, while the other populations are mostly found on BLM land. (Smith 1998)

Research Management Needs
  Continued monitoring of populations is important to understand long-term fluctuations in population size.
Pollinators must be protected to insure adequate outcrossing.
The BLM must continue to monitor off-road vehicle use in poppy habitat.

Ex Situ Needs
  Development of propagation protocols is imperative to this species survival. Moreover, propagated plants must be successfully transplanted back into native habitat.


Books (Sections)

Tepedino, V.J. 2002. Section III. Environmental Monitoring. III.5 The Reproductive Biology of Rare Rangeland Plants and Their Vulnerability to Insecticides. Grasshoppers: Their biology, identification and management, User Handbook.

Conference Proceedings

Harper, K.T.; Van Buren, R.; Aanderud, Z.T. The Influence of Interplant Distance and Number of Flowers on Seed Set in Dwarf Bear-Poppy. Southwestern rare and endangered plants: proceedings of the third conference; September 25-28; Flagstaff, AZ. In: Maschinski, Joyce; Holter, Louella, editors. 2000. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Fort Collins, CO (Proceedings RMRS-P-23). p 105-109.

Van Buren, R.; Harper, K.T. Genetic Variation Among Populations of Arctomecon (Papaveraceae). Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-GTR-283. Proceedings of the Southwestern Rare and Endangered Plant Conference; September 11-14; Flagstaff, AZ. In: Maschinski, J.; Hammond, H.D.; Holter, L., editors. 1996. USDA and US Forest Service. p 77-85.

Electronic Sources

(2002). New York Botanical Garden--The Virtual Herbarium. [Searchable Web site] New York Botanical Garden. Fordham Road Bronx, New York. http://scisun.nybg.org:8890/searchdb/owa/wwwspecimen.searchform. Accessed: 2002.

(2002). Rare Plant Profiles. [Searchable Web site] State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources. http://www.utahcdc.usu.edu/rsgis2/Search/SearchSelection.asp?Group=PLANT&Species=PLANT. Accessed: 2002.

USGS. (2002). Status of Listed Species and Recovery Plan Development. [Web site] USGS: Norther Prairie Wildlife Research Center. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/others/recoprog/plant.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

1988. Threatened and Endangered Plants Summary. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 15: 2.

1995. Red Butte Garden Recognizes BLM Endowment for Rare Utah Plant. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 18: 10.

Allphin, L.; Windham, M.D.; Harper, K.T. 1998. Genetic diversity and gene flow in the endangered dwarf bear poppy, Arctomecon humilis (Papaveraceae). American Journal of Botany. 85, 9: 1251-1261.

Boyack, A. 1988. Bearclaw poppy filmstrip popular in St. George. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 15: 1, 10.

Boyack, A. 1988. Threatened and Endangered Species Conference. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 15: 1, 10.

Griswold, T. 1993. New Species of Perdita (Pygoperdita) Timberlake of the P. californica Species Group (Hymenoptera, Andrenidae). Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 69, 2: 183-189.

Nabhan, G.P. 1996. The parable of the poppy and the bee. Nature Conservancy. 46, 2: 10-15.

Nelson, D.R.; Harper, K.T. 1988. Dwarf Bearclaw Poppy: Research Update. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 15: 10.

Nelson, D.R.; Harper, K.T. 1991. Site Characteristics and Habitat Requirements of the Endangered Dwarf Bear-Claw Poppy (Arctomecon humilis Coville, Papaveraceae). Great Basin Naturalist. 51, 2: 167-175.

Nelson, D.R.; Welsh, S.L. 1993. Taxonomic revision of Arctomecon Torr. and Frem. Rhodora. 95, 883-884: 197-213.

Raynie, D.E.; Lee, M.L.; Nelson, D.R.; Harper, K.T.; Mead, E.W.; Stermitz, F.R. 1990. Alkaloids of Arctomecon Species Papaveraceae 12 Methoxyallocryptopine a New Protipine-type Alkaloid. Biochemical Systematics & Ecology. 18, 1: 45-48.

Smith, J.H. 1998. An Eye-Catching Poppy: Nature Conservancy of Utah Acquires Critical Habitat Near t. George for Showy Endangered Species. Sego Lily: Newsletter of the Utah Native Plant Society. 21, 4: 2.

Tepedino, V.J. 1997. Wild Bees and Floral Jewels. Wings. 20, 1: 8-10.

Tepedino, V.J. 2000. Wild Bees and Floral Jewels. Castilleja: The Newsletter of the Wyoming Native Plant Society. 19, 4: 6-8.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.

USFWS. 1979. Determination that Arctomecon humilis is an Endangered Species. Federal Register. 44, 216: 64250-64252.

USFWS. 1979. Service Lists 32 Plants. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 4, 11: 1, 5-8.


Harper, K.T.; Van Buren, R.; Douglas, B.; Armstrong, V. Quantifying the persistence of individual populations of rare plants in southwestern Utah. Provo, UT: Department of Botany, Brigham Young University and Bureau of Land Management, Cedar City District.

Mistretta, O.; Pant, R.; Ross, T.S.; Porter, J.M.; Morefield, J.D. 1996. Current Knowledge and Conservation Status of Arctomecon californica Torrey & FrTmont (Papaveraceae), the Las Vegas bearpoppy. Carson City & Reno, Nevada: Prepared for Nevada Natural Heritage Program, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada State Office.

Tepedino, V.J. The reproductive biology of Arctomecon humilis, an endangered plant of southwest Utah. Logan, UT: USDA-ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab, Utah State University.

USFWS. 1985. Dwarf bear-poppy, Arctomecon humilis Coville, recovery plan. Denver, Colorado: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Van Buren, R.; Harper, K.T. Genetic variation in Arctomecon. Provo, UT: Department of Botany and Range Science, Brigham Young University.


Nelson, D.R. 1989. Demographic and seedbank biology of Arctomecon humilis (Papaveraceae), a short-lived perennial. [Masters Thesis]: Brigham Young University. Provo, Utah.

Woolstenhulme, Loreen Allphin. 1996. Fecundity, genetic variability, and fitness in rare plants. [Ph.D. Thesis]: University of Utah. 105p.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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