Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 29: 159. 1902.
Plants loosely cespitose, to 1.2 dm. Leaves to 5 cm; petiole to 2/3 length of leaf; blade blue-green on both surfaces, broadly ovate, 2×-lobed with 2 pairs of primary lateral lobes, glabrous or sparsely hirsute; primary lobes lanceolate to obovate, apex obtuse or rounded, sometimes bristle-tipped. Inflorescences: scapes erect or curved, sparsely hispid, trichomes spreading. Flowers to 2 cm diam.; petals yellow, or orange with yellow basal spot, or orange-pink; anthers yellow; stigmas 4-5, disc convex. Capsules obovoid to obconic, 2-2.5 times longer than broad, to 1.5 cm, strigose, trichomes light (ivory). 2n = 14.
Phenology: Flowering Jul–Aug.
Habitat: Mountain summits, ridges, and screes
Elevation: 0–2900 m
Alta., B.C., Mont.
This well-marked species has its closest relatives within the Papaver alpinum complex in the mountains of central and southern Europe, e.g., P. pyrenaicum (Linnaeus) Willdenow.
The report of 2n = 42, attributed by D. Löve and N. J. Freedman (1956) to A. C. Fabergé (1944), is an error; it is based on material from Pikes Peak, Colorado, where P. pygmaeum has not been found (D. F. Murray 1995).