Forget-me-not – Flowers

(Myosotis palustris)

Borage family

Flowers—Pure blue, pinkish, or white, with yellow eye ; flat, 5-lobed, borne in many-flowered, long, often 1-sided racemes. Calyx 5-cleft ; the lobes narrow, spreading, erect, and open in fruit ; 5 stamens inserted on corolla tube ; style thread-like ; ovary 4-celled. Stem: Low, branching, leafy, slender, hairy, partially reclining. Leaves : (Myosotis = mouse-ear) oblong, alternate, seated on stem, hairy. Fruit: Nutlets, angled and keeled on inner side.

Preferred Habitat-Escaped from gardens to brooksides, marshes, and low meadows.

Flowering Season—May—July.

Distribution—Native of Europe and Asia, now rapidly spreading from Nova Scotia southward to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and beyond.

How rare a color blue must have been originally among our flora is evident from the majority of blue and purple flowers that, although now abundant here and so perfectly at home, are really quite recent immigrants from Europe and Asia. But our dryer, hotter climate never brings to the perfection attained in England

” The sweet forget-me-nots That grow for happy lovers.”

Tennyson thus ignores the melancholy association of the flower in the popular legend which tells how a lover, when trying to gather some of these blossoms for his sweetheart, fell into a deep pool, and threw a bunch on the bank, calling out, as he sank forever from her sight, ” Forget me not.” Another dismal myth sends its hero forth seeking hidden treasure caves in a mountain, under the guidance of a fairy. He fills his pockets with gold, but not heeding the fairy’s warning to “forget not the best “—i.e., the myosotis—he is crushed by the closing together of the mountain. Happiest of all is the folk-tale of the Persians, as told by their poet Shiraz : It was in the golden morning of the early world, when an angel sat weeping outside the closed gates of Paradise. He had fallen from his high estate through loving a daughter of earth, nor was he permitted to enter again until she whom he loved had planted the flowers of the forget-me-not in every corner of the world. He returned to earth and assisted her, and together they went hand in hand. When their task was ended, they entered Paradise together, for the fair woman, without tasting the bitterness of death, became immortal like the angel whose love her beauty had won when she sat by the river twining forget-me-nots in her hair.”

It was the golden ring around the forget-me-not’s centre that first led Sprengel to believe the conspicuous markings at the en-trance of many flowers served as pathfinders to insects. This golden circle also shelters the nectar from rain, and indicates to the fly or bee just where it must probe between stigma and anthers to touch them with opposite sides of its tongue. Since it may probe from any point of the circle, it is quite likely that the side of the tongue that touched a pollen-laden anther in one flower will touch the stigma in the next one visited, and so cross-fertilize it. But forget-me-nots are not wholly dependent on in-sects. When these fail, a fully mature flower is still able to set fertile seed by shedding its own pollen directly on the stigma.

The Smaller Forget-me-not (M. laxa), formerly accounted a mere variety of palustris, but now defined as a distinct species, is a native, and therefore may serve to show how its European relative here will deteriorate in the dryer atmosphere of the New World. Its tiny turquoise flowers, borne on long stems from a very loose raceme, gleam above wet, muddy places from Newfoundland and Eastern Canada to Virginia and Tennessee.

Even smaller still are the blue or white flowers of the Field Forget-me-not, Scorpion Grass, or Mouse-ear (M. arvenis), whose stems and leaves are covered with bristly hairs. It blooms from August to July in dry places, even on hillsides, an unusual locality in which to find a member of this moisture-loving clan. All the flowers remain long in bloom, continually forming new buds on a lengthening stem, and leaving behind little empty green calices.