Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) are a genus of flowering plants. The name Myosotis derives from the ancient Greek μυοσωτίς meaning mouse’s ear, which the leaves are said to resemble.

According to its English Wikipedia page, the colloquial English name of forget-me-not has been in use since the late 14th century and is a direct translation from the German Vergißmeinnicht.

Photo of forget-me-nots

Myosotis. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

However, it is to the French Wikipedia article on the foget-me-not that one needs to turn for the presumed origins of this commemorative colloquial plant name.

According to one legend, a knight was walking by a river with his lady. He bent over to pick her a flower, but toppled over due to his armour and fell into the water. While he was drowning, he tossed the flower towards her crying out “Forget me not!”

It goes without saying that the legend fails to explain why the hapless knight felt the need to don his armour for what was ostensibly a safe situation. No health and safety risk assessments or technical standards for PPE in those days!

Talking of risky situations, the forget-me-not has become a flower of remembrance in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador where it is used to commemorate those who were killed in the First World War.

Similarly in Germany the forget-me-not became a flower of remembrance for those who fell in conflict from WW1 onwards.

In other countries, the forget-me-not has assumed a different commemorative function, one dealing with those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as happens in the Netherlands and New Zealand.