I Never Learn

I was getting into my car at Lock 10 a few weeks ago when I decided to take a quick picture of the weedy lawn area nearby. I was in a hurry, you see. I figured I’d come back a few days later if I saw anything interesting in the picture. And then I didn’t get around to looking at the photo for a few days. And there was something interesting – two things, really: the pansies weren’t the ones I thought they were, and hiding among them were lots of tiny bright blue flowers.

Of course when I did get back there, eight days later, all the pansies were gone: done blooming. But the other blue flowers were still there.

Rule number one: take the time to get the shot. Will I ever learn?

Anyway, this is not a very clear picture, but the two flowering plants in it are Viola bicolor (field pansy, Violaceae), and Myosotis stricta (strict or small flowered forget-me-not, Boraginaceae). The former is a native, but the latter is an alien.

Field pansy is a low-growing annual forb that prefers drier soils in open and disturbed areas, like parking-lot lawns. Viola species can be tricky to key out, as there can be a lot of morphological variation within species, and cross-species hybridizing is common. The plants that we now call Viola bicolor were once considered a European species, and you’ll still find references to them as Viola kitaibeliana and Viola rafinesquii. It’s widespread in North America, though not in a few northern and western states. It’s also widespread in Maryland, missing only from Garret, Harford, and Somerset counties.

Strict forget-me-not is one of four alien Myosotis species found in Maryland (there are three natives, too). The plants stand only a few inches tall, and the flowers are minute; I didn’t even see them there when I took the picture of the pansies. The species can be found in much of the US, minus a few northern and southern states.

It’s been a boraginaceous year.

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.