Hit rate high in high-country forget-me-not search

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 forget-me-nots (Myosotis).

In January 2017, she travelled to three main areas in northern South Island (Cobb Valley, Mt Owen and ranges around St Arnaud) together with Collection Manager Ant Kusabs to hunt for some more forget-me-nots.

Read on to learn about the different species of forget-me-nots they found on the trip, as well as other specimens which are now part of Te Papa’s Botany collection.

Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park

For the first part of the trip, we teamed up with colleagues Shannel Courtney, Simon Walls, and Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls (Department of Conservation), whose extensive local knowledge of the flora and geography of the park was indispensable.

Four people in hiking gear stand in front of parked vehicles in the wilderness

Simon Walls, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Heidi Meudt, and Ant Kusabs, ready to do some botanical field work in the Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park. Photograph by Shannel Courtney

With their help, as well as using detailed information from collections and databases at Te Papa and other New Zealand institutions, we found and collected several different species, including the following:

Myosotis chaffeyorum

Myosotis chaffeyorum from Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105614)

Myosotis mooreana

Myosotis mooreana from Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105607)

Myosotis brockiei

Myosotis brockiei, Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105615)

Myosotis macrantha

The stunning flowers of Myosotis macrantha from Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105611)

Owen Massif, Kahurangi National Park

Mt Owen has a fascinating geological history, which might help explain why its flora and fauna are unique, including some special forget-me-nots. Although the weather was not always cooperative, Ant and I nevertheless made some exciting collections.

Hut surrounded by grass and rocky hills

We were fortunate to be based at the wonderful Granity Pass Hut while we were working in the Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

Person climbs a rocky mountain range

The stunning backdrop for our field work. Here Ant is searching for Myosotis in the Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

Myosotis angustata

Myosotis angustata in the Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105619)

Myosotis concinna

The photogenic yellow flowers of Myosotis concinna, Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105620)

Myosotis concinna

Myosotis concinna, Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105620)

  • We also found Myosotis australisanother common (and Not Threatened) species throughout the South Island. But unlike most New Zealand forget-me-nots, M. australis is also native to Australia and Papua New Guinea. Current morphological and genetic research is underway to determine if M. australis is indeed one wide-ranging species, or rather comprises multiple species that will require scientific description.
Myosotis australis

Flowers of Myosotis australis from the Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105616)

Ant crossing the scree

Ant crossing the scree after collecting Myosotis australis from the base of the cliffs behind him, Mt Owen area, Kahurangi National Park, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105621)

Ranges near St Arnaud

On the third and final part of our field trip, we teamed up with Jessie Prebble (former Te Papa PhD student, now Plant Systematist at Landcare Research!) and keen student Zuri Burns, who were also doing field work in the same areas.

Three women stand with an expansive view of a valley behind them

Botany girl power! Zuri, Jessie and Heidi searching for Myosotis laeta in the Red Hills, January 2017. Photograph by Ant Kusabs. Te Papa (WELT SP105625)

We found populations of two additional forget-me-not species of note:

Myosotis laeta

Myosotis laeta from Red Hills, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105625)

  • Myosotis traversiion the other hand, is a common species found on high-elevation scree slopes throughout the South Island. We also found it in the Cobb Valley, where we somehow managed to collect despite very strong winds.
Myosotis traversii

Myosotis traversii on Rainbow Ski Field, January 2017. Photograph by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa (WELT SP105623)

Two people pose on the side of a mountain with a view of hills and a valley and body of water below them

Ant and Zuri have found the perfect spot to make some research collections for Te Papa, near Rainbow ski field, January 2017. Photograph by, courtesy of Jessie Prebble

In total, we found and collected several populations of nine of the 40+ native Myosotis species in New Zealand, which we are actively researching now. Which is your favourite? We also made several other important collections for the museum. Stay tuned to future blogs about our results, and, of course, our next field trips.

Futher information

6 Responses

  1. Olwen Mason

    Thanks, Heidi. That was very interesting. I suddenly remembered Chatham Is Forget Me Nots only to discover they’re not quite a myosotis species. So I’ve had an intriguing trip.

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Hi again Olwen. I might need to write a blog about the Chatham Island forget-me-not (Myosotidium) because that’s the forget-me-not that everyone seems to know in New Zealand. You are right that although it is in the same family (Boraginaceae) it is not closely related. Glad you have been doing some botanical learning. Thanks for your interest. Heidi

  2. Ian Payton

    Lovely to see Ant Kusabs in his natural element. Please pass on my regards.

    Ian Payton

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Thanks Ian, will do! I am very fortunate to have such a great co-worker. Cheers, Heidi

  3. Olwen Mason

    Although they’re all cute, the concinna’s yellow flowers and the chunky angustata really stand out. Great photography! Any reason why we don’t seem to have blue ones here or pink ones?

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Thanks very much for your positive comments. Your question about flower colour is a great one! It may have to do with the pollinators of the flowers. Flower colour is one of the many ‘cues’ that pollinators use to find flowers, which they use as a food source to harvest pollen and/or nectar. Some flowers have certain colours, odor, shape etc. to attract specialised pollinators, but in New Zealand, many of our flowers are small, white or pale with and open dish-shape to attract unspecialised or generalist flies and bees. A nice but technical review paper about the subject can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0028825X.2005.9512943. In fact one of the co-authors on that paper, Alastiar Robertson, also did his PhD research on the pollination biology of a few of our native Myosotis species, some of which have the ‘unspecialised’ white flowers, but others (like M. macrantha and M. concinna shown here) have more ‘specialised’ flowers, which might indicate a more specialised pollinator (e.g. a certain species of insect). This is certainly an area very ripe for additional study! Finally we do have some blue ones in the subantarctic islands of NZ, check it out: M. capitata: http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=591 and M. antarctica: http://nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=589 Cheers, Heidi

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