A Close-up View of Two Forget - Me - Nots:
"Field" and "True"

(Myosotis stricta and Myosotis scorpioides)

by Brian Johnston   (Canada)

Where Past and Present, wound in one,
Do make a garland for the heart:
So sing that other song I made,
Half-anger’d with my happy lot,
The day, when in the chestnut shade
I found the blue Forget-me-not.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

(Excerpt from “The Miller’s Daughter”)

Field Forget-Me-Not - Myosotis stricta

I first saw this extraordinary wildflower while walking in the rain in early May.  Perhaps “saw” is not quite accurate, since from walking height, this very tiny flower is all but invisible.  At best, the diameter of the bloom is a mere 2 to 4 mm!  What I did notice was that a section of the grassy slope had a beautiful blue tint.  On closer inspection, the tiny pink buds and blue flowers showed great promise, so I pulled up a bunch by the roots and transported the soggy mess home.  Fortunately, with roots immersed in water, and plenty of sunlight, the plants survived for a week.

As can be seen from the photograph below, the flowers are tiny in comparison with the rest of the plant. 

Sometimes, you have to look hard to see the pink buds amongst the profusion of stems.

The entire plant is remarkable in its hairiness.  The genus name “Myosotis” derives from the Greek mus which means “mouse”, and otos meaning “ear”.  This refers to the tiny, hairy leaves, which, if colour is ignored, do indeed resemble mouse ears (see below)!

The flowers of this species are trumpet shaped, and pale blue with a yellow throat.  There are five petals, and, if you look closely, five pointed green sepals (modified leaves) beneath the petals.

Readers of my previous articles about wildflowers know that I favour a black background for macrophotographs.  To me, this enhances contrast and provides less of a distraction.  As an experiment, I replaced my normal black velvet background by a gray one.  The results are shown below.  Perhaps the images look more “natural”, as though they were obtained “in the field”, but I still prefer black!  I greatly admire photographers who shoot wildflowers in the field, coping with random breezes, and less than ideal lighting conditions.  For me, however, the complete control of most variables afforded by table-top macrophotography, is of paramount importance.

The image below, taken under the microscope, reveals a bud about to bloom, framed by two of its five sepals.

After blooming, the tiny flowers are sometimes dislodged from the sepals, leaving a tiny hairy cup-shaped structure.

Higher magnification reveals just how hairy these sepals are!

Most of the hairs are fairly straight, but some are distinctly hooked, as can be seen below.

Extreme magnification shows that the hairs are covered with tiny bumps.

Although Field Forget-Me-Not is almost too small to be appreciated with the naked-eye, its beautiful blue petals, and delicate pink buds make it one of my favourite wildflowers.

True Forget-Me-Not - Myosotis scorpioides

This striking wildflower must be everyone’s favourite!  Originally introduced from Europe, this plant has become naturalized through much of North America.  Unlike the prevous species,  True Forget-Me-Not requires considerable moisture, and is usually found along the shores of lakes and the edges of streams.  This was true of the plants photographed for this article which were growing in the location shown in the image below.  There is a river behind the trees, and the plants were situated in the shade half-way down the embankment, making it difficult (and dangerous) to obtain them.

The species name scorpioides refers to the fact that when the plant emerges from the ground, the stem is coiled and resembles a scorpion tail.  This is also true of Field Forget-Me-Not and if you look closely at the second image in the article, several of these “tails” are visible.

Forget-Me-Nots are members of the Borage Family whose offspring are universally hairy.  The buds of the “True” variety, although larger, are almost indistinguishable from the “Field” variety.

In the higher magnification image that follows, the sepals that cup each bud are visible.

The flowers are pale blue, with yellow centres.  Pink spots are often found on mature petals.

From the back, it can be seen that each bloom grows on a short stalk, which may, or may not be joined to others at one point.  The five petals form a narrow tube at the base which flares abruptly to form the trumpet-like front called the limb.

A single flower is from 6 to 8 mm in diameter, and when newly opened is a beautiful sky-blue colour.  Patches of bright yellow pollen are often found on the petals (upper right corner).

The blooms last a considerable time, although they do tend to fade slightly with age.

Each flower has five petals, each with an unusual white appendage along the inner edge.  At the centre there are five bright yellow bi-lobed structures called fornices.  The five anthers can be seen just below the fornice ring.  (Each of the filaments holding an anther is fused to one of the petals within the tubular part of the flower.)  There is a single pistil attached at its base to the ovary.

Underneath the petals are the five green sepals (modified leaves) that form the calyx of the plant.  (Isn’t the terminology of botany wonderful!)  The hairy nature of a single sepal is shown in the photomicrograph below.

Higher magnification reveals more details.

The following image shows the five anthers, each with a pale green filament which is fused to the interior surface of a petal.  The petals have been removed, and the dark triangular shapes are the tips of green sepals.

The final image shows a view from inside the flower facing out.  Three anthers can be seen as well as the (out of focus) ring of yellow fornices.

The comparison of various members of the same wildflower family is an interesting part of the hobby.  Although the two species studied here are quite similar, others may be remarkably different!  In an earlier article I presented  a very different looking member of the Borage family, “Viper’s Bugloss”  If you are interested in having a look, you can find it here.

Photographic Equipment

The photographs in the article were taken with an eight megapixel Sony CyberShot DSC-F 828 equipped with achromatic close-up lenses (Nikon 5T, 6T, Sony VCL-M3358, and shorter focal length achromat) used singly or in combination. The lenses screw into the 58 mm filter threads of the camera lens.  (These produce a magnification of from 0.5X to 10X for a 4x6 inch image.)  Still higher magnifications were obtained by using a macro coupler (which has two male threads) to attach a reversed 50 mm focal length f 1.4 Olympus SLR lens to the F 828.  (The magnification here is about 14X for a 4x6 inch image.) The photomicrographs were taken with a Leitz SM-Pol microscope (using dark ground and polarizing condensers), and the Coolpix 4500.  


The following references have been found to be valuable in the identification of wildflowers, and they are also a good source of information about them.

         All comments to the author Brian Johnston are welcomed.

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