Spring is in the air, and for botanists like myself that means it’s time to head out into the field to try to find and collect plant specimens for our research. This year, like last year, I will be going to specific places around the country to look for different species of native New Zealand forget-me-nots. Last year I collected this forget-me-not in coastal Taranaki:
The first week of October, Jessie Prebble and I returned to coastal Taranaki on our first foray of the field season. We knew from studying previous collections from Te Papa’s herbarium and other New Zealand herbaria that we should find at least two other species there: Myosotis brevis and Myosotis pygmaea.
We planned to visit about eight different sites over two days. Because both species are very small in size, we spent a lot of time at each site searching on hands and knees trying to find them. But I don’t think we realized just how small they are until we finally found Myosotis brevis at the third site we visited. Check it out: the entire plant can fit on your fingernail!
At another site we found Myosotis pygmaea, which although still small, seemed like a giant compared to M. brevis!
And here is a close-up:
Collaboration was instrumental in finding these plants. So far, we’ve been fortunate that private landowners and iwi have allowed access to most sites we want to visit, and that other colleagues, local enthusiasts and Department of Conservation staff were willing to share their knowledge and accompany us on our plant hunt.
Since our Taranaki trip, we’ve also found Myosotis brevis at two other North Island locations in November: near Cape Palliser (Wairarapa), and also Te Ikaamaru Bay (see Phil Garnock-Jones’ blog about that trip). But I hope I’m not giving you the impression that forget-me-nots are easy to find! Our experience so far shows that, on average we’re finding Myosotis in only about half of the known sites where it’s been collected before.
This field work is an important first step to gather the necessary samples to perform genetic and morphological analyses on native forget-me-nots. Continued collaboration and information-sharing will be essential to update the taxonomy and conservation strategies of these plants.