A perennial herb found in two contrasting habitats: heavily-grazed limestone grassland on base-rich well-drained soils in the Pennines, and both on and below mica-schist ledges on ungrazed cliffs in Perthshire, often in open communities. Reproduction is by seed. From 685 m in Teesdale (N.W. Yorks. and Westmorland) to 1180 m on Ben Lawers (Mid Perth).
The distribution of M. alpestris is generally stable, though some populations in the Pennines appear to be in decline. The English and Scottish populations are ecotypically distinct (Elkington, 1964).
Circumpolar Arctic-montane element, with a disjunct distribution.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 7
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0
Atlas Change Index: -0.22
RDB Species Accounts
Myosotis alpestris F.W.Schmidt (Boraginaceae)
Alpine forget-me-not, Lus Midhe Ailpeach
Status in Britain: LOWER RISK - Near Threatened.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
M. alpestris is a calcicolous montane plant, occurring at an altitude of 700-1,180 m. It is found in two distinct types of community, in two discrete areas of highland Britain. In the northern Pennines, it is predominantly a plant of heavily-grazed limestone grassland, occurring on base-rich mull soils, sometimes in areas flushed with water percolating down from limestone cliffs above. The plant grows best in turf which is not completely closed. Other typical plants of the community include Carex caryophyllea, Campanula rotundifolia, Festuca ovina, Galium sterneri, Luzula campestris, Minuartia verna, Thymus polytrichus, Racomitrium lanuginosum and Tortella tortuosa. It is known in three separate hills in the northern Pennines, one of which is estimated to hold a very large, probably stable, population of up to a hundred-thousand plants (Taylor 1987a), but some colonies on the other hills seem to be declining.
By contrast, in the Scottish Highlands it is principally a plant of mica-schist ledges and slopes below cliffs, frequently in open communities on substrates largely composed of mica flakes and rock fragments, and often in places inaccessible to sheep and deer. Alchemilla alpina, Festuca ovina and Thymus polytrichus normally occur in the community, together with such alpine species as Draba norvegica, Minuartia sedoides, Persicaria vivipara, Saxifraga oppositifolia, Sibbaldia procumbens and Silene acaulis. It is known from about nine sites in the Breadalbane mountains, with populations ranging from several thousand plants at some sites, to a few hundreds, or just a few tens of plants at others. It may be extant in hectads for which there are only pre-1987 records, and further information is needed. M. alpestris is considered to have been introduced to one locality in Angus.
M. alpestris is a perennial, reproducing exclusively by seed. Germination is in spring with flowering mainly in June and July. Self-pollination takes place under greenhouse conditions, but it is not known whether this is usual in wild populations. It seems likely, however, that the flies and butterflies which visit the flowers carry out at least some cross-pollination. Seed is freely produced and is shed in August and September. Plants grown from seed first flower in their second year, but the longevity of individual plants is not known, neither is the length of time that seed remains viable in the soil (Elkington 1964).
The English and Scottish populations from rock ledges are morphologically distinct, those in the Pennines being smaller in all parts, and this distinction is apparently maintained in cultivation. However, plants from grazed slopes in Scotland are reported as being much smaller than those growing on ledges, though it is not known whether these differences are genotypic. It may be that grazing pressure has led to the development of dwarf ecotypes (Elkington 1964). M. alpestris may be vulnerable to excessive grazing, but the plant is not seriously threatened in Britain as a whole.
It is common in many montane regions of Europe from southern Spain to the Alps, Tatras and Carpathians, the British sites being distant outliers of its main range. The plant is very variable throughout Europe with many local forms, and there are numerous very closely-related species in Europe, Asia, and North America.
M. J. Wigginton
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Atlas text references
Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
, Königstein, (1986)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols,
, Jena, (1978)
British Red Data Books. 1. Vascular plants, edn 3,
, Peterborough, (1999)