Myosotis (//; from the Greek: μυοσωτίς "mouse's ear", after the leaf) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. In the northern hemisphere they are commonly called forget-me-nots or scorpion grasses. The common name "forget-me-not" was calqued from the German Vergissmeinnicht, and first used in English in 1398 CE through King Henry IV. Similar names and variations are found in many languages. Myosotis alpestris is the state flower of Alaska. Plants of this genus are commonly confused with Chatham Islands forget-me-nots which belong to a related genus, Myosotidium.
Over five hundred species names have been recorded, but there are only 74 accepted species. The rest are either synonyms of currently accepted names or submissions awaiting resolution. The genus is largely restricted to two discrete geographic centres: western Eurasia with about 60 confirmed species and New Zealand with around 40 confirmed species. Very small numbers of species occur elsewhere including North America, South America, and Papua New Guinea. Despite this, Mysosotis species are now common throughout temperate latitudes via the planting of cultivars and introductions of alien species. Many are popular in gardens, preferring moist habitats. In areas where they are not native, they have frequently escaped to wetlands and riverbanks. Only those native to the Northern hemisphere are commonly called Forget-me-not.
It is equally possible that the genus originated in either the Northern Hemisphere or in New Zealand. One or two European species, especially the wood forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica have been introduced into most of the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Myosotis have 5-merous actinomorphic flowers with 5 sepals and petals. Flowers are typically 1 cm diameter (or less), flat, and blue, pink, white or yellow with yellow centres, growing on scorpioid cymes. They may be annual or perennial with alternate leaves. They typically flower in spring or soon after snow-melt in alpine eco-systems. Their root systems are generally diffuse.
Their seeds are found in small, tulip-shaped pods along the stem to the flower. The pods attach to clothing when brushed against and eventually fall off, leaving the small seed within the pod to germinate elsewhere. Seeds can be collected by putting a piece of paper under the stems and shaking the seed pods and some seeds will fall out.
Myosotis scorpioides is also known as scorpion grass due to the spiraling curve of its inflorescence.
- Myosotis abyssinica Boiss. & Reut.
- Myosotis afropalustris C.H. Wright
- Myosotis albiflora Banks & Sol. ex Hook. f.
- Myosotis alpestris F.W.Schmidt -- Alpine forget-me-not
- Myosotis alpina Lapeyr
- Myosotis ambigens (Bég.) Grau
- Myosotis antarctica Hook. f.
- Myosotis arvensis (L.) Hill - field forget-me-not
- Myosotis asiatica (Vestergr. ex Hultén) Schischk. & Serg. -Asiatic forget-me-not
- Myosotis azoricaH.C. Watson - Azores forget-me-not
- Myosotis balbisiana Jord.
- Myosotis baltica Sam. ex Lindm.
- Myosotis bothriospermoides Kitag
- Myosotis cadmea Kitag
- Myosotis caespitosa Schultz- tufted forget-me-not
- Myosotis decumbensHost
- Myosotis discolor Pers -changing forget-me-not
- Myosotis densiflora C. Koch
- Myosotis incrassata Guss.
- Myosotis krylovii Serg.
- Myosotis lamottiana (Braun-Blanq. ex Chass.) Grau
- Myosotis latifolia Poir. - broadleaf forget-me-not
- Myosotis laxa Lehm.- tufted forget-me-not, Bay forget-me-not
- Myosotis lithospermifolia Hornem.
- Myosotis monroi Monro's forget me not
- Myosotis nemorosa Besser
- Myosotis petiolata var. pansa (L.B.Moore) Meudt, Prebble, R.J.Stanley & Thorsen subsp. pansa - Waitakere forget-me-not
- Myosotis ramosissima Rochel - early forget-me-not
- Myosotis rivularis (Vestergr.) A.P. Khokhr
- Myosotis sachalinensis Popov
- Myosotis scorpioides L. - true forget-me-not
- Myosotis secunda - creeping forget-me-not
- Myosotis sicula Guss. - Jersey forget-me-not
- Myosotis sparsiflora J.C.Mikan ex Pohl
- Myosotis speluncicola Schott ex Boiss
- Myosotis stenophylla Knaf
- Myosotis stricta Link ex Roem. & Schult
- Myosotis strigulosa Rchb.
- Myosotis sylvatica Ehrh. ex Hoffm - wood forget-me-not
- Myosotis verna Nutt. - spring forget-me-not
In popular culture
- In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out, "Forget-me-not, O Lord!" God replied, "That shall be your name."
- In another Greek legend, when the Creator thought he had finished giving the flowers their colours, he heard one whisper "Forget me not!" There was nothing left but a very small amount of blue, but the forget-me-not was delighted to wear such a light blue shade.
- In medieval times, it was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.
- Henry IV adopted the flower as his symbol during his exile in 1398, and retained the symbol upon his return to England the following year.
- In 15th-century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers.
- Freemasons began using the flower in 1926 as a symbol not to forget the poor and desperate. In later years, it was a means of recognition in place of the square and compass design. Some also use it to remember those Masons who were victimized by the Nazi regime. In recent years, it is more commonly worn to remember those who have died as a symbol that they may be gone but, but they are not forgotten.
- Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The mouse-ear forget-me-not, Myosotis laxa, has now extended its racemes very much, and hangs over the edge of the brook. It is one of the most interesting minute flowers. It is the more beautiful for being small and unpretending; even flowers must be modest."
- Keith Douglas wrote a poem called "Vergissmeinnicht" (forget-me-not) about a dead German soldier in World War II
- In his 1947 poem "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction", Wallace Stevens mentions a "myosotis on its bush"
- In 1949, Newfoundland (then a separate British Dominion) used the forget-me-not as a symbol of remembrance of that nation's war dead. This practice is still in limited use today, though Newfoundlanders have adopted the Flanders Poppy as well.
- It is used to symbolize the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of remembrance of the 1.5 million killed by the Ottoman Turks in the Armenian Genocide that took place between 1915 and 1923.
- Carlos Lehnebach (2012). "Lectotypification of three species of forget-me-nots (Myosotis: Boraginaceae) from Australasia". Tuhinga. 23: 17–28.
- "Myosotis". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Richard C. Winkworth, Jürke Grau, Alastair W. Robertson & Peter J. Lockhart (2002). "The origins and evolution of the genus Myosotis" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 24 (2): 180–193. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(02)00210-5. PMID 12144755.
- Sanders, Jack (2003). The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History. Globe Pequot. ISBN 1-58574-668-1.
- "Alaska Kid's Corner". State of Alaska. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
- "Species in Myosotis". The Plant List. Retrieved March 28, 2015. Plant Life - Myosotis]
- NZ Flora factsheet - Myosotis
- "The Story Behind the Forget-Me-Not". Alexander. 2009-12-11. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
- Thoreau, Henry David; Blake, Harrison Gray Otis; Emerson, Ralph Waldo; Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin (1884). The Writings of Henry David Thoreau. 6. p. 109.
- "The forget-me-not flower" (PDF). The Armenian Church. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
- Times, Los Angeles (24 April 2015). "Armenian genocide: Massive march ends at Turkish consulate in L.A.". latimes.com. Retrieved 8 June 2016.