Friday, 22 May 2015


Forget-me-nots in a Byfield garden. The species is
 Myosotis sylvatica. 11 May, 2015

Forget-me-nots are at their peak now and, as I photographed these examples in a friend's garden recently I was reminded of the story relating to their odd name.

It would appear that one spring day, in medieval Germany, a knight and his lady were strolling along the bank of a river. The armour-clad knight bent down to gather a posy of flowers for her but lost his balance. He fell into the water and, dragged down by his armour, the doomed man could only fling the flowers to his beloved with the words, 'Vergisz mein nicht' - 'Forget me not!' 

There are two possible reactions to this tale: a. How romantic! or b. What a plonker!

John Clare offers an alternative:

                      The mouse-ear looked with bright blue eye
                      And said Forget-me-not,
                      And from the brook I turned away
                      But heard it many an after day.

                                                                         Asylum Poems

(Clare died in Northampton Asylum in 1864.)

Forget-me-nots, of which there are about nine species in Britain, belong to the genus Myosotis in the Boraginaceae family. They are thus related to borage, comfreys and lungworts.
Myosotis arvensis on a roadside near Daventry.
14 May, 2015

Garden Forget-me-nots are usually forms of the Wood Forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica but the very weedy Field Forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis, can crop up in  gardens. There it will become a nuisance and plants need to be whisked out before seedlings begin to pop up everywhere. The flowers on the pictured specimens were only 3 to 4 millimetres wide.

A close-up shows that they flowers are of a delicate china-blue, pretty under a hand-lens but otherwise without any impact. A definite no-no in the garden. 
Green Alkanet beside a road in Daventry.
22 May, 2015

If you are looking for a Forget-me not with real impact you could consider this fine plant...except that it isn't a Forget-me not at all but is Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. It is closely related to Myosotis but over the years has been placed in various genera - Anchusa, Buglossa, Buglossus, Caryolopha and Omphalodes. 

I have mentioned the name 'Alkanet' in a previous blog. It comes from the Spanish, alcaneta, which in turn is derived from the Arabic, al-henna. It yields a dye which can be used as a substitute for genuine henna.

Green Alkanet reaches a height of about two feet but (there is always a 'but') it can be invasive. Some botanists consider that it may be a British native but on balance that seems unlikely and it always seems to occur close to gardens or on waste ground.

No comments:

Post a Comment