Myosotis hunting in the deep south

Field work is a key part of scientific research at Te Papa. Each year, Research Scientist Heidi Meudt spends about three weeks in the field collecting specimens for her taxonomic research on native New Zealand Myosotis.

In December 2016, she recently traveled to the southern South Island and Stewart Island together with Collection Manager Ant Kusabs to hunt for some elusive forget-me-nots.

Was their field trip successful? What did they find? Read on to discover some of the botanical gems they found which are now part of Te Papa’s Botany collection.

Myosotis rakiura

Myosotis rakiura inflorescence from The Gutter, Stewart Island, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105595)

Myosotis rakiura on the Catlins coast

On this trip, we teamed up with colleagues Brian Rance and John Barkla (Department of Conservation), Mike Thorsen (ERA Ecology), and keen student Mathew Rees (Kew Gardens).

We wanted to find and collect two species of Myosotis that I had not yet seen in the field: Myosotis rakiura (restricted to Southland, Stewart Island, and Solander Island), and M. tenericaulis (known from few sites on all three main New Zealand islands).

In addition to making collections and taking photos for research, we also wanted to get good estimates of the number of plants at each site, as both plants are listed as At Risk – Naturally Uncommon on the New Zealand Threatened Vascular Plant List

A verdant, rocky coastline

The start of the trail leading to coastal habitats of Myosotis rakiura near Bluff, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

The first day of our trip was spent driving along the spectacular Catlins coast of the southeastern South Island, visiting three sites where M. rakiura had been collected or seen in the past: Bluff, Curio Bay, and Purakaunui.

We were stoked to find plants of M. rakiura in full flower at all three sites, growing on the rocks and slopes near the coast.

Two men on a grassy bank overlooking rocks and water

Ant and Mathew making research collections and notes of Myosotis rakiura near Bluff, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105592)

A beautiful specimen of Myosotis rakiura from Curio Bay

A beautiful specimen of Myosotis rakiura from Curio Bay, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105593)

Close up of an unfurled and nearly spent inflorescence of Myosotis rakiura

Close up of an unfurled and nearly spent inflorescence of Myosotis rakiura from Curio Bay, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105593)

Man sits among the Myosotis rakiura

Ant is thoroughly enjoying his “day at the office”, collecting Myosotis rakiura at Curio Bay, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105593)

 Heidi making a research collection of Myosotis rakiura

Happy botanists all around: Heidi making a research collection of Myosotis rakiura for the museum from Curio Bay, December 2016 (SP105593). Photograph by John Barkla

Myosotis rakiura habitat at Purakaunui

Myosotis rakiura habitat at Purakaunui, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. (SP105594)

Myosotis and more on Stewart Island

Would we be equally successful on Stewart Island (Rakiura)? We were about to find out. The next day we packed our backpacks and got on an early flight to Stewart Island, where I experienced my first beach landing.

Our small plane coming in for a beach landing on the south end of Mason Bay to start our Stewart Island field work, December 2016.

Our small plane coming in for a beach landing on the south end of Mason Bay to start our Stewart Island field work, December 2016.

And the excitement continued, as we found our first population of M. rakiura shortly thereafter.

Myosotis rakiura from The Gutter, Stewart Island, December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/1591971

Myosotis rakiura from The Gutter, Stewart Island, December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. (SP105595)

The rest of the day was spent tramping to Doughboy Bay…

John and Mathew tramping between Mason Bay and Doughboy Bay on Stewart Island

John and Mathew tramping between Mason Bay and Doughboy Bay on Stewart Island. We had to be completely self-sufficient on this part of the trip, each carrying about 15kg of food, clothing, and botany collecting gear on our backs, and staying in DOC huts. December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

…which wasn’t always easy…

A little mud won't stop us finding the forget-me-nots... Although it might slow us down a bit. Here I am up to my knees in mud on the way to Doughboy Hut, Stewart Island

A little mud won’t stop us finding the forget-me-nots… Although it might slow us down a bit. Here I am up to my knees in mud on the way to Doughboy Hut, Stewart Island! December 2016. Photograph by John Barkla.

…but we got there and made collections of yet another population of M. rakiura!

Ant and John with Myosotis rakiura at Doughboy Bay, December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/1591979

Ant and John with Myosotis rakiura at Doughboy Bay, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105596)

Myosotis rakiura at Doughboy Bay, December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/1591979

Myosotis rakiura at Doughboy Bay, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105596)

The final full day in the field involved a long tramp through the Rakeahua River Valley, where we found and collected not only Myosotis tenericaulis (two separate populations!), but also several other interesting plantsincluding tiny Ourisia modesta, which was the first time we had seen this plant in flower. We collected it because Te Papa did not yet have a specimen of it.

Finding the elusive Myosotis tenericaulis in the Rakeahua Valley, December 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/1592007

Finding the elusive Myosotis tenericaulis in the Rakeahua Valley, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (SP105598)

The tiny Ourisia modesta, in flower

The tiny Ourisia modesta, in flower, Rakeahua Valley, December 2016. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

Postscript from Solander Island

To top off what was an extremely successful field trip (with mostly good weather to boot), researcher Tim Poupart (PhD student collaborating with Te Papa Senior Curator Sue Waugh) collected another population of M. rakiura from Solander Island for us during his visit there in July 2017.

Taken together, we now have samples from the whole geographic range of M. rakiura, and these are currently being compared morphologically and genetically.

A small clump of Myosotis rakiura plants on Solander Island

A small clump of Myosotis rakiura plants on Solander Island, July 2017. Photograph by Tim Poupart

Further information:

7 Responses

  1. Olwen Mason

    Very interesting! Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Hammonds

    Great story and photos thank you Heidi. Love those little Myosotis – and that Ourisia.

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Thank you Barbara. I am fortunate to be able to do field work as part of my role at the museum, and we botanists get pretty excited about some of the plants we find. I’m pleased you think the plants are special too. Heidi

  3. Pamela Julian

    Great find and thanks for sharing this plants.

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Hi Pamela, Thanks for reading the blog and I’m glad you liked the photos of our amazing native forget-me-nots. Heidi

  4. Pat enright

    Hi Heidi

    Myosotis rakiura I have seen at Cannibal Bay and Brian Patrick (Wildlands in Chch) has also recorded it from Otago Peninsula. He would be able to give you more details.

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Hi Pat,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I see that Brian has in fact collected a specimen of the second plant that you mentioned: CHR 518514, and this can be seen in the “Myosotis rakiura” map on https://www.ala.org.au/ which shows all specimens from the three main NZ herbaria CHR, WELT and AK. It appears there are herbarium records made by Donald Petrie from “mouth of Catlins River” which would be close to the Cannibal Bay population you mention, but these are llikely to be a centry old, so a new collection from there would be a great addition to our studies.
      Cheers,
      Heidi

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