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We currently have two varieties of Forget-Me-Nots blooming on the farm.  Although they are not of the same genus, they are related, as both belong to the Boraginaceae (Borage) family.  One is native to California, the other was introduced, escaped cultivation, and has now naturalized in many parts of the State.

Cynoglossum grande

Our native Forget-Me-Not is Cynoglossum grande, also known as Pacific Hound’s Tongue.  This perennial herb is native to western North America, from British Columbia to California.

Cynoglossum grande

Pacific Hound’s Tongue is usually found in woodland and chaparral, favoring at least partial shade.  This species emerges in late winter with bronze leaves, appearing somewhat tongue-like, gradually turning green as they mature.

Cynoglossum grande

The leaves are somewhat lance to heart-shaped, smooth above, and hairy below, clustering at the base of the plant.

Cynoglossum grande leaf

The flowers are usually carried on a single hairless stem held above the leaves, between February and April, and consist of five petals, lavender to blue in color, with five white heart-shaped appendages in the center.

Emerging flower stalk of Pacific Hound's Tongue. Note the hairy under-surface of the adjacent leaves.

Emerging flower buds of Cynoglossum grande

Pacific Hound's Tongue flowers have five petals, and five white appendages in the center of the flower

At least here on the farm, this plant appears to be relatively uncommon.  Where it does occur, it seems to mostly favor dry shade, on steep southeast to southwest facing slopes, growing as an understory plant beneath oak and fir.  The first specimen we noted however was found growing along the edge of our roadway.

A lone Cynoglossum grande blooming at the edge of our road

Pacific Hound’s Tongue was used by Native Americans, including the Concow who would grate the roots and apply it as a burn dressing, and the Pomo who would use the grated roots as a treatment for stomachaches. [1]

Cynoglossum grande

We would love to see more of this somewhat elusive plant on the property.  They are apparently difficult to transplant due to their deep and extensive taproots, and not always readily available at native plant nurseries.  Hopefully by leaving the areas undisturbed where this plant seems to preferentially grow, it will slowly fill in on its own.

[1] Daniel E. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotanical Database

Myosotis latifolia

The second species of Forget-Me-Not growing here, is actually native to northwestern Africa.  It is an introduced species to the west coast of North America.  Myosotis latifolia is also known as the Broadleaf Forget-Me-Not, and is found throughout California, especially in damp woodland.

An alien invader in California, Myosotis latifolia is native to northwestern Africa

It is fair to say that locally, this plant is quite invasive, clearly crowding out other native plants where it gains a strong foothold.  In early spring, a profusion of blue flowers explodes across the base of our slopes, and along the edges of our roads and driveway.

Myosotis latifolia has become naturalized across many woodland areas in California

The California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) assessed this species in 2006 and determined the statewide impact of this escaped cultivar is ‘limited’.  Locally however, including here on the farm, this plant runs rampant at this time of year. Despite the Cal-IPC designation, the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works lists Myosotis latifolia as a plant to avoid planting in creek-side gardens within the county.

The dense flower clusters of Myosotis latifolia

Like the Pacific Hound’s Tongue, the flowers of Myosotis latifolia consist of five lavender to blue petals, but with an inner circle of yellow or white, and white ‘teeth’ along the petal edges.  Myosotis latifolia produces dense flower clusters at the terminal end of the stem, and leaves are present along the entire length.

Emerging flower buds of Myosotis latifolia

Myosotis latifolia

Myosotis latifolia seems to be quite heat and drought tolerant, and can be found here growing both in partial shade, and full sun.  It forms a dense ground cover, and even manages to squeeze itself in between the dense thickets of Miner’s Lettuce, where little else succeeds in early spring.   Clearly part of the reason for its success here is that deer and gophers simply leave it alone.

Myosotis latifolia even competes against the Miner's lettuce

Myosotis latifolia is becoming increasingly common along trails around the Monterey Bay, spreading rapidly by seed, and has been observed to spread especially aggressively after fire, or soil disturbance.  It will be interesting to see if its invasive status changes with the Cal-IPC in the near future.

Here on the farm, without supplemental summer water, Myosotis latifolia tends to die back in mid-summer.  Although not as aggressively invasive as our French Broom, these Forget-Me-Nots do seem to be increasing here on the property, and are on our list of invasive plants in need of control here, once the more aggressive French Broom, and Vinca minor, are under control.

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of Heaven,
Blossom the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow