Plants loosely to densely cespitose, to 1.5 dm. Leaves to 12 cm; petiole 2/3 length of leaf; blade green on both surfaces, not glaucous, lanceolate, 1-2×-lobed with 2-3(-4) pairs of primary lateral lobes; primary lobes broadly lanceolate or strap-shaped, apex obtuse to acute. Inflorescences: scapes erect or bowed and decumbent, less than 15 cm, sparsely to densely hispid. Flowers to 6.5 cm diam.; petals yellow or white, rarely pink tinged, or brick red; anthers yellow; stigmas 4-7, disc convex. Capsules obovoid to subglobose, 1-2.5 times longer than broad, strigose, trichomes light to dark brown or black.
Alta., B.C., N.W.T., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), Que., Yukon, Alaska, Colo., Idaho, N.Mex., Utah, Wyo., Arctic and alpine North America, Europe, Asia.
Subspecies numerous (4 in the flora).
Many infraspecific taxa have been named from throughout the extensive range of this extremely variable species. Within North America, the following broadly circumscribed subspecies are generally, but not always, distinguishable.
|1||Scapes densely hispid with dark trichomes; capsules with dark brown trichomes.||Papaver radicatum subsp. polare|
|1||Scapes hispid with light-colored trichomes (sometimes dark brown in subsp. alaskanum); capsules with light to dark brown trichomes.||> 2|
|2||Flowers 2 cm diam. or less; capsules ellipsoid-subglobose to oblong-obconic; Rocky Mountain system from Alaska and Yukon southward.||Papaver radicatum subsp. kluanense|
|2||Flowers mostly greater than 2 cm diam.; capsules broadly obovoid to ellipsoid; Aleutian Islands n, e across arctic Alaska and Canada to Greenland.||> 3|
|3||Capsule trichomes generally with abruptly thickened bases; Aleutian Islands, islands of the Bering Strait and w coast of Alaska.||Papaver radicatum subsp. alaskanum|
|3||Capsule trichomes generally without thickened bases; w, n Alaska e to Canada and Greenland.||Papaver radicatum subsp. radicatum|