New names for some tiny forget-me-nots

New names for some tiny forget-me-nots

New research published by Jessie Prebble and colleagues resolves the taxonomy (naming and classification) of a group of small native forget-me-nots in the southern hemisphere. The new data show that some of these plants require different names. Curator Botany Heidi Meudt discusses what this means.

The main findings

The species treated in this new paper (Prebble et al. 2022) are mostly found in mainland New Zealand, but one species extends into the subantarctic islands and southern Chile. They include some of the smallest species of forget-me-nots in the world: Myosotis brevis, M. antarctica, M. drucei, M. pygmaea and M. glauca.

Myosotis antarctica Hook.f. subsp. antarctica, collected 15 December 2018, Mount Starveall Hut, South Island, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP107322)
Myosotis antarctica Hook.f. subsp. antarctica, collected 15 December 2018, Mount Starveall, at Mount Starveall Hut just outside hut on helicopter pad, New Zealand. Field Collection 2018-2019. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP107322)

This paper is based on Jessie’s PhD thesis and is the culmination of a decade of research! Here, Jessie brought together her previously published data of these species’ morphological features and DNA, and combined them with new data on their ecological niches.

Jessie found that Myosotis brevis and M. glauca can be distinguished from each other and from the other species in multiple ways.

By contrast, M. antarctica from the subantarctic islands (which Jessie collected back in 2013!) is not different from M. drucei on mainland New Zealand.

Myosotis antarctica Hook.f. subsp. antarctica, collected 28 December 2013, Mt Honey, Campbell Island, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP102779)
Myosotis antarctica Hook.f. subsp. antarctica, collected 28 December 2013, Western slopes of Mt Honey, New Zealand. Field Collection 2013-2014. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa (SP102779)

A new taxonomy means some new names

Jessie’s findings show that instead of five species in this group, there are only three speciesHer new taxonomy means that the species M. antarctica is expanded to include species formerly called M. drucei and M. pygmaea. 

But because those two former species show geographic separation (allopatry) and can be distinguished by minor leaf hair characters, they are now recognized as subspecies within M. antarctica. 

Previous taxonomy

New taxonomy

Notes

Myosotis brevis

M. brevis

No change

M. glauca

M. glauca

No change

M. antarctica

M. antarctica

Includes M. antarctica, M. drucei & M. pygmaea

M. drucei

M. antarctica subsp. antarctica

Includes M. antarctica & M. drucei

M. pygmaea

M. antarctica subsp. traillii

Was M. pygmaea

Although we’ll all have to learn some “new” names for these forget-me-nots, particularly for Myosotis drucei and M. pygmaea, the subspecies names themselves are not actually new. The name Myosotis antarctica subsp. traillii was published by New Zealand botanist Thomas Kirk back in 1884.

References cited

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