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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Forget-me-nots-Myotis species

Forget-me-nots belong to the Family Boraginaceae and placed in the genus Myosotis[ Myosotis=shaped like the ear of a mouse-the foliage}. Worldwide there thought to be around 50 species which can be very variable; However, many of them have small flowers about 1cm {or even smaller}, but colour variation is common place. They can be annual or perennial and are widely distributed.

Forget-me-nots attained their common name through a Medieval legend that tells of a knight walking along a river bank with his sweetheart. Whilst picking flowers for her , he slipped, the weight of his armour took him into the river. As he was drowning he threw  her the flowers and shouted to her "forget-me-not!

There are several species that grow in Britain and Ireland;Most are plants of wet or shady places.

" The blue and bright eyed floweret of the brook,

Hope's gentle gem, the sweet forget-me-not"

                                                     Coleridge.

Lady Caroline Wilkinson 1858, wrote in her book Weeds and Wild Flowers; their uses, legends and literature } " Most abundantly grows the forget-me-not beside brooks, rivers and stagnant ditches, asking for only moisture in order to fringe their sides with its turquoise flowers, who's brilliant hue is beautifully contrasted with the clear yellow eye, and the distinct white ray which defines the base of each segment of the monopetalous corolla."

Lady Caroline also informs us that " Pliny, who like most of the early writers, has always some wonderful tale to tell of Egyptians, affirms that they believe that if this plant is gathered on the 27th day of Thiatis [Thoth} which answers nearly to our August, anyone who anoints his eyes with its juice; before he speaks in the morning, he will be free from weak eyes all that year ! "

Forget-me-nots, despite Pliny's observations, have been little used in medicine. to the best of my knowledge only one species Myosotis symphytifolia has been utilised. This species was reputed as being good for respiratory organs, especially the left lower lung. On the continent it was made into a syrup to counteract lung infections.

Forget-me-nots brighten the brook-sides in spring.

Photos by Dal

Myosotis sylvatica-The wood forget-me-not.

 There are 8 British species-This species has one of the largest flowers of any forget-me-not species. They are 6-10mm wide.they appear from April until July. The flowers are blue with 5 un-notched petals with yellow centres which appear in clusters. When these clusters, known as cymes, are in bud the they are curled tightly in the manner of a scorpions tail, hence the old name for the plant scorpion grass. The foliage is basal, oblong to lance shaped and simple they have no teeth, slightly hairy. stem leaves are stalkless. this plant has become quite rare in the wild, however, it is one of the commonest species grown in gardens. In a garden situation they require moisture, a deep soil and they will thrive in shade or sunny aspects.

The field forget-me-not-Myosotis arvensis

The field or common forget-me-not grows on cultivated and disturbed land throughout Britain. It can attain the height of between 15-40cm. They may be encountered in flower from April until September.the flowers that form a small tube consist of five blue petals that are un-notched and have a yellow centre. they are enclosed by the sepals which are hairy and have sharp tips.  The unopened flower buds are pink and are held in a coiled spike or cyme. The flowers are 3-5mm across.

It is a softly hairy plant that has lower leaves that form a basal rosette. They are stalked or oblong. The flowers are self pollinating and begin to set seed from April onwards. each plant depending on the size can produce from 70-1,500 seeds. In common with most forget-me-nots they readily germinate and soon spread into large areas where they occur. 

Orange tip butterfly on forget-me-not

photo-by Dal

The water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides.

This species appears to have fewer hairs than most forget-me-nots as the hairs are very flat on the stem and leaves. Stems look fleshy which compliments the wet habitat where they grow. The flowers are coiled in the bud  somewhat like a scorpions tail, hence the species name of scorpioides { like a scorpions tail}.

The flowers are blue with a yellow centre they are 8-10 mm wide. The foliage is alternate, oblong and slightly hairy.  This plant forms colonies in wet places along rivers and streams, in marshes, ditches and meadows, thrives on neutral soil.

Other members of the Borage family

Forget-me-nots should not be mistaken for the similar looking brooklime which often shares the same habitat.-Below the brooklime

Phot-by Dal

Forget me nots and the garden

Many species of forget me-nots are offered for sale for garden use. These pretty plants brighten up spring gardens after the bleak dankness of winter has passed. However they do readily self seed and some degree of control is required to keep them in check.  On the plus side, gardeners will never need to buy these plants again for they will return [ from seed} each year.

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