Papaver mcconnellii is an alpine poppy that grows in sparsely vegetated areas high in the mountains of Denali including scree slopes, gullies and rock outcrops. The species is small-statured, the flowering stalks to 20 cm tall. Plants have a long caudex at the base with many persistent dead leaves, forming loose cushions and tufts. The leaves of P. mcconnellii are gray-blue, and sparsely hairy. The leaves are long-petioled, and highly dissected, with small, narrowly ovate segments. Solitary flowers are produced on leafless stalks, somewhat flexuose. The flowers are large, 3-6 cm in diameter, with 'sulfur-yellow' petals, although sometimes petals are white with golden bases (Cody 2000). The pistil is globose, with 5-6 stigmatic lobes in a disk at the top. Flowers have many yellow anthers. Fruits are a capsule, as long as it is broad, opening by pores at the top to release many small seeds. This species can be differentiated from other local poppies by the blue-green, bipinnate leaves and the capsule as long as it is broad.
Papaver mcconnellii is a perennial deciduous species that flowers early in the season.
This species is monoecious with bisexual flowers. Flowers attract insects, and poppies are often self-incompatible. Seeds are tiny and released from the pores of the capsule, wind-dispersed.
Papaver mcconnellii is endemic to Alaska and neighboring parts of Canada. In Alaska, it occurs along the northern edge of the Alaska Range and the Seward Peninsula. In Denali, P. mcconnellii occurs in scattered localities north of the Alaska Range, , including in the Kantishna Hills and Teklanika Mtns., and in a few stations in the Chulitna and Yentna river drainages to the south.
This is a true alpine species, found at an average elevation of 1280 meters in the Park. Almost all of its occurrences are on slopes above 28 degrees incline, most commonly on east or west-facing slopes.