Three New Zealand forget-me-nots discovered

Three species of forget-me-nots new to science have just been formally described by Te Papa Botany Researcher Heidi Meudt and colleagues. Heidi introduces us to their names, what they look like, and describes what makes them unique.

forget-me-not-tepapa

Myosotis bryonoma, collected 11 January 2016, Garvie Mountains, east of Lake Laura., New Zealand. Field Collection 2015-2016. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (WELT SP104478)

In the latest volume of Australian Systematic Botany, Heidi Meudt (Te Papa) and Jessie Prebble (Manaaki Whenua –Landcare Research) have published a paper which describes, illustrates, and discusses the conservation status and defining characteristics of 14 species of forget-me-not species, including three new to science. In addition to photos, Bobbi Angell (NYBG) also provided beautiful and precise traditional botanical illustrations of the three new species.

Thirteen of the 14 species treated in the paper are endemic to New Zealand (one is native to southern South America), and these represent about 1/3 of the total number of native Myosotis in New Zealand. As such, this paper is a significant improvement in our baseline biodiversity knowledge and taxonomy of this genus in the Southern Hemisphere.

Read the published paper >

See Bobbi Angell illustrations on Collections Online >

How were the new species discovered?

Each of the three new species was ‘discovered’ by meticulously studying specimens we already had at Te Papa and other institutions in New Zealand and overseas – a process that took over 3 years! We also made new collections and observations during summer field trips, when the plants are flowering and fruiting.

We followed some ‘clues’ from previous botanists who had suggested that these plants might be different and potentially new species. Sometimes these clues are published in the scientific literature, but more often they are simply cryptic handwritten notes on specimen labels.

By systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting the necessary data, we show that in these three cases, the plants do in fact differ in several characteristics from each other and from already described species, and formally describe them.

Read Heidi’s blog on getting morphological data from herbarium specimens >

The three new species

1) Myosotis bryonoma – named by the public

We asked the general public to help us name this species in the exhibition You Called Me What?!? which closed last year.

After receiving over 500 suggestions, it was a blog comment by Bec Stanley (Auckland Botanic Garden) which gave us the starting point for our chosen name.

Read the 500 suggestions we had for the forget-me-not name >

Myosotis bryonoma growing in a mossy bog in the Garvie Mountains, South Island. WELT SP104478. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1524570

Myosotis bryonoma growing in a mossy bog in the Garvie Mountains, South Island. WELT SP104478. Photo by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

Watercolour of Myosotis bryonoma by Nancy Adams. This species was originally thought to be a small form of M. tenericaulis. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/824131

Watercolour of Myosotis bryonoma by Nancy Adams. This species was originally thought to be a small form of M. tenericaulis

Plants of M. bryonoma are small, dwarfed plants with few, white flowers, and leaves with straight and appressed hairs on the top side but no hairs on the underside. They also are only found in mossy mountain bogs in central Otago on the South Island, hence the name (bryo– moss, –noma, loving).

Antony Kusabs collecting Myosotis bryonoma from its high elevation bog habitat in the Garvie Mountains, South Island. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. WELT SP104478. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1524570

Antony Kusabs collecting Myosotis bryonoma from its high elevation bog habitat in the Garvie Mountains, South Island. Photo by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa. WELT SP104478.

2) Myosotis retrorsa – a forget-me-not with backward-facing hairs

The distinctive backward-facing (‘retrorse’) hairs on the leaves of these compact plants inspired the new name of this species, which occupies high elevation habitats of the southern South Island.

It differs in flower number and several other leaf characters from the three cushion species and another similar species, M. lyallii.

Myosotis retrorsa from Mt Burns, Fiordland, South Island. WELT SP104546. Photo by Phil Garnock-Jones. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1525171

Myosotis retrorsa from Mt Burns, Fiordland, South Island. WELT SP104546. Photo by Phil Garnock-Jones.

Leaves of Myosotis retrorsa, showing underside (left) and top (right). Note the backward-facing ("retrorse") hairs on the underside (left), which give this species its name. Hummock Peak, Eyre Mountains, South Island, Meudt et al. 495. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa.

Leaves of Myosotis retrorsa, showing underside (left) and top (right). Note the backward-facing (‘retrorse’) hairs on the underside (left), which give this species its name. Hummock Peak, Eyre Mountains, South Island, Meudt et al. 495. Photo by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

Whole plant of Myosotis retrorsa, just past flowering, from Hummock Peak, Eyre Mountains, South Island. Meudt et al. 495. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa.

Whole plant of Myosotis retrorsa, just past flowering, from Hummock Peak, Eyre Mountains, South Island. Meudt et al. 495. Photo by Heidi Meudt. Te Papa

3) Myosotis umbrosa – a shady character

Finally, we have Myosotis umbrosa, which means ‘shady’ or ‘shadowy’ and refers to the habitat of this species, which is in the shade of rock pillars in the Rock and Pillar and Lammerlaw ranges in Otago.

Relative to many of the other species, plants of this species have larger flowers, leaves, and other plant parts, retrorse hairs on leaves, and both retrorse and hooked hairs on the calyces.

Detailed illustration of new species Myosotis umbrosa by Bobbi Angell (NY Botanical Garden).

Detailed illustration of new species Myosotis umbrosa by Bobbi Angell (NY Botanical Garden).

Myosotis umbrosa from the Rock and Pillar Range. Photo by David Lyttle. WELT SP104246. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1509202

Myosotis umbrosa from the Rock and Pillar Range. Photo by David Lyttle. WELT SP104246

cover-forget-me-not-paper

Species limits and taxonomic revision of the bracteate-prostrate group of southern hemisphere forget-me-nots (Myosotis, Boraginaceae), including description of three new species endemic to New Zealand

Thanks to co-author Jessie Prebble; Mike Thorsen and Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls for helping collect and name the new species; Te Papa Collection Manager Antony Kusabs for support in the field and herbarium; Bobbi Angell for the illustrations; and many, many other colleagues, landowners, herbaria, iwi, and DOC staff for their help and support of this research.

Further reading

Myosotis research field trips >

Research on Myosotis at Te Papa >

Te Papa blogs on forget-me-nots >

You Called Me What?!? >

Reference

Heidi M. Meudt & Jessica M. Prebble. 2018. Species limits and taxonomic revision of the bracteate-prostrate group of southern hemisphere forget-me-nots (Myosotis, Boraginaceae), including description of three new species endemic to New Zealand. Australian Systematic Botany 31(1) 48-105.

 

13 Responses

  1. Robyn Smith

    Congratulations Heidi. Love our hairy Myosotis. Great to see the new ones. Were any of them in Tony Druce’s collection at Percy Reserve?
    kind regards Robyn Smith

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Hi Robyn, Yes they are quite hairy, aren’t they? Although Tony Druce collected numerous plants from throughout NZ (and seemed to be especially fond of Myosotis), I don’t think he collected many (if any?) specimens of these new species. But we’d need to double check that with the records at Percy. It would actually be beneficial to me to know what Myosotis plants are still growing there.
      Thanks,
      heidi

  2. Linda Olesen

    Hi Heidi,
    Congratulations on your research and findings. I’m very happy that such a scientific projects get to the eyes and attention of public. I hope this will get more people to resp our environment.

    Can I also have your paper in pdf, please.

    Ngā mihi,
    Linda

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Kia ora Linda,
      Thank you for your comments. I agree that it is so important to get the latest biological scientific research results out to the wider community, which is what I hope this blog helps do. Knowledge is power, and the more people that know about and see the beauty of our amazing and unique flora and fauna, the more people will care about our natural environment. Thanks for your interest in our paper, I’ve emailed you a pdf.
      Nāku noa, nā Heidi

  3. John Grehan

    Yes, quite understand that the focus was on just the taxonomy. But could not help notice the biogeographic patterns and presumably these are well known to you and other taxonomists, but perhaps not so much to Te Papa readers. This was a nice case of taxonomy revealing the evolutionary building blocks of New Zealand’s gondwanic past and so could not resist making note of that to make the point that taxonomy is more than just stamp collecting and species conservation is more than just retaining populations.

    John Grehan

    Reply
  4. Pat enright

    Very interesting Heidi. Lovely photographs. Great bit of country down that way.

    I would love a PDF copy of the paper please.

    Regards

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Kia ora Pat,
      Thanks for your positive comments. We certainly enjoyed the field work required to find, collect and study these beauties, often in very rugged, mountainous regions of the South Island. I’ve just sent you a pdf of the paper, enjoy!
      Ngā mihi
      nā Heidi

  5. Bec Stanley

    What a lovely surprise to find out my suggestion inspired the name of the moss-loving forget-me-not Myosotis bryonoma! Thanks for the opportunity.

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Tēnā koe Bec,
      Thank you so much for helping us choose a name! There were some other serious contenders among the responses we got (as well as some not so serious ones!), but in the end your idea was a winner because we liked that it was associated with the plant’s distinctive habitat. It was fun for us to participate in this naming experiment too, and get the greater public interested and excited about our native flora. Since you have such great ideas, don’t be surprised if we contact you again in future if we discover another new species…
      Nāku noa, nā Heidi

  6. John Grehan

    Just received a copy of the paper (kind thanks to the author) which shows some very nice biogeographic patterns adding to the significance of this research (see Heads 2017 Biogeography and Evolution in New Zealand for comparative details). At a glance observations:

    Nice Alpine fault displacement shown by tenericaulis which is suggestive of at least a 23 million year origin for this distribution.

    Also a possible Alpine fault displacement for M. lyalli between the SI populations east of the fault and NI populations west of the original fault (and also accounting for the northern populations being just north of Cook Strait as in many other taxa).

    Interesting concentration of species in the Otago region – reminds me of some ghost moth distributions.

    The M colensi disjunction between Kaikoura and Castle Hill region – latter a very important biogeographic center.

    M. uniflora – reminds me of some old shoreline distributions.

    John Grehan

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Thanks for your additional comments, John. The focus of our paper is of course on the taxonomy of several southern hemisphere species of Myosotis, without going into origins and biogeography at this stage. I look forward to examining the biogeography in more detail in future once we have additional data on many more species.
      Best,
      Heidi

  7. John Grehan

    Very nice to see new additions to Myosotis, a group with global biogeographic significance, including a subclade comprising an austral group (New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, South America) and a Mediterranean group (Europe, North Africa to Ethiopia). As noted by Heads (2014) this pattern indicates a former connection of the South Pacific clade and the Mediterranean clade somewhere between New Guinea and Ethiopia, probably along a Tethys track. The former continuity was later broken with one clade evolving in the north and the other around the South Pacific followed by breaks within the South Pacific between Australasian and South American members. The pattern is repeated by Coriaria.

    The only disappointment was that the ‘read the published paper’ link went to the journal website where there is a hefty $60 fee. It would have been better to invite requests to the author for a reprint.

    John Grehan

    Reply
    • Heidi Meudt

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your comments. Of course, anyone who does not have access to the article online is more than welcome contact me and I will send a pdf, which I have just sent you via email!
      Thanks for your interesting in my research.
      Heidi

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)