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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.