From Discovery to Cultivation

Meconopsis betonicifolia, also known as Meconopsis baileyi and the Himalayan blue poppy, was first noted in 1886 by Pere Delavay a French Catholic missionary. In the late spring of 1922, a British Himalayan expedition, led by legendary mountaineer George Leigh Mallory, discovered the plant on their failed attempt to reach the summit of the then-unconquered Mount Everest. The specimen was collected by Lt. Col. Frederick Marshman Bailey. Pressed into a notebook, the quality of the specimen was not excellent but it still created great interest in England.The flowers were introduced to much excitement at the Royal Horticultural Society’s spring show of 1926. In 1924, Frank Kingdon-Ward, the explorer and plant collector, brought back the first viable seed and, in 1927, it was displayed at horticultural shows and there were large plantings in public parks in London and Edinburgh. However, since they have been difficult to grow, the species has become fabled over the decades.