That Beautiful Borage Blue


Mertensia maritima
oyster plant, oysterleaf,
sea lungwort, sea bluebells
Icelandic: blálilja



When I spotted this single plant on a black pebble beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, I knew it right away for a member of the borage family. There’s something unmistakable about that shade of blue, especially when paired with those pink buds.

M. maritima occurs on beaches at higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, including Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, and parts of the British Isles. It’s found almost everywhere in coastal Iceland. In the US it can be found in coastal Alaska and northern New England. It’s endangered in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

There are about 60 species of Mertensia worldwide, but only one is present in Maryland: M. virginica (Virginia bluebells):



Myosotis arvensis
field forget-me-not
Icelandic: gleym-mér-ey

There are four other borage family species in Iceland, all in the genus Myosotis. I found this one in several places, including way north (near Akureyri) and way south (less than a hundred meters from the end of the glacier Sólheimajökull). Field forget-me-not is common in the lowlands of Iceland, except in the northeast and northwest.



field forget-me-not growing with two species of horsetail,
Equisteum pratense and E. variegatum

Field forget-me-not is found in Maryland as an alien, but we have a native, too: M. verna, spring forget-me-not:

It’s in the borage family, but it lacks that incredible blue color.

Remember my posts about Death Valley from earlier this year? The Cryptantha species I found there are also in the borage family. You can see the similarity in the flowers, even if the colors are different.

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