Forget-me-not, Chatham Islands

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Forget-me-not, Chatham Islands

Myosotidium hortensia

division: Magnoliophyta

class: Magnoliopsida

order: Asterales

family: Boraginaceae

status: Rare, IUCN

range: New Zealand (Chatham Islands)

Description and biology

The Chatham Islands forget-me-not is classified as a perennial (plant that lives, grows, flowers, and produces seeds for three or more consecutive years). It is also a succulent, or a plant that has thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems. Its stout, fleshy underground stem produces a rosette, or crowded cluster of large leaves that form the plant's base. Measuring 6 to 17 inches (15 to 43 centimeters) long, the leaves are heart-shaped, thick, and fleshy.

Flowering stems arise from the plant's rosette to a height of 3.3 feet (1 meter). Attached to the stems are clusters of flowers that are pale to dark blue in color. Each flower is saucer-shaped and measures about 0.5 inch (1.3 centimeters) across.

Habitat and current distribution

The Chatham Islands forget-me-not is found on Chatham Islands, a island group lying about 500 miles (805 kilometers) east of New Zealand (to which it belongs). The plant is found on both main islands—Chatham and Pitt Islands—and on the islets (small islands) comprising the group.

Always found close to the sea, the Chatham Islands forget-me-not inhabits coastal dunes, sandy beaches, cliff ledges, and peat-covered rocks.

History and conservation measures

This species of forget-me-not was once plentiful throughout the Chatham Islands. It covered many acres of shoreline just above the high-water mark and spread farther inland over the sand dunes.

The plant has disappeared from much of its former range because of grazing by introduced animals. Pigs, sheep, and goats brought to the islands feed on the forget-me-not's leaves and stout, fleshy stems.

Two of the small islets in the Chatham Islands are nature reserves, and the Chatham Islands forget-me-not is slowly making a comeback at these locations. Fortunately, this plant is easy to grow from seeds; it is being artificially raised in great numbers.