FORGET-ME-NOT (Myosotis species)

Field or Common Forget-me-not

Six species of wild forget-me-not are found within Northamptonshire’s boundaries, but of these only two have been recorded in Sulgrave parish. The water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) is a common perennial plant of wet places, growing alongside or in streams or ponds. The five-petalled sky-blue flowers, on stems up to a foot high, open from June onwards. More common still is the annual field or common forget-me-not (M. arvensis), of cultivated or waste ground, and flowering from April on. The flowers are generally smaller and greyish blue. John Clare wrote:

            The little blue Forget-me-not
            Comes too on Friendship’s gentle plea
            Spring’s messenger in every spot,
            Smiling on all – “Remember me!”

Forget-me-nots in Stockwell Lane

The common name seems to bear no relationship to the plant’s habit or characteristics. Its introduction into English is generally credited to another poet, Coleridge, who was familiar with a German tale about a knight strolling with his lady along a river bank. Picking flowers to present to her, he slipped and fell into the water. Before he drowned, he threw the posy to her with the cry “Vergiss mein nicht!” In his poem Coleridge wrote

            That blue and bright-eyed flowerlet of the brook,
            Hope’s gentle gem, the sweet Forget-me-not!

Obviously he referred to the water forget-me-not. The name is shared by other European languages. In French, for example, it becomes “ne m’oubliez pas!”

Text by George Metcalfe. Photos by Colin Wootton.