Myosotis sylvatica (Wood Forget-me-not)

Plant Info
Also known as: Garden Forget-me-not
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soils; gardens, roadsides, woods, forest openings
Bloom season:May - September
Plant height:8 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Raceme of stalked flowers at the tips of branching stems, the cluster initially tightly curled at the tip with flowers opening in succession as the tip unfurls and elongates. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across, blue to pinkish-purple or sometimes white, tubular with 5 spreading, round to egg shaped lobes. The base of the lobes has a scale-like swollen appendage that forms a bright to deep yellow collar around the throat. Flower stalks are about ¼ inch long, elongating in fruit. The calyx surrounding the base of the flower is shorter than the stalk and has five narrowly triangular lobes that are longer than the calyx tube. The floral tube is longer than the calyx tube, causing the flower to be mostly flat across the top. The central stem, flower stalks and the calyx are sparsely to moderately covered in short, spreading hairs, at least some of the calyx hairs with a minute hook at the tip (hand lens recommended).

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf hairs] Leaves are alternate, the lower leaves mostly broadest above the middle, rounded at the tip, narrowed at the base to a short stalk, 1 to 3 inches long and ¼ to ¾ inch wide, becoming smaller, stalkless or nearly so, and more lance-oblong as they ascend the stem. Surfaces are sparsely to moderately covered in spreading hairs, edges are toothless but fringed with short, fine hairs. Stems are round in cross-section or angled, multiple from the base, erect with flower stalks and upper branches ascending, and densely covered in short, spreading hairs. Plants can form colonies from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

Fruit is four parted, (a schizocarp) hidden inside the persistent calyx, spliting into four dark, shiny, egg shaped nutlets (mericarps) less than 1/10 inch long.


Wood Forget-me-not is the species most people are familiar with in flower gardens and one of three non-native Myosotis species in Minnesota. Though widely planted throughout North America, it is not as widely naturalized as its close look-a-like True Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides). Still, in suitable habitat it can become widespread in natural areas and is considered invasive throughout woodlands in much of northern Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan. While M. scorpioides is very aggressive in water ways and shallow standing water and M. sylvatica prefers higher, drier sites, the two species can both thrive in well drained soils with abundant moisture and side-by-side, look nearly identical. The best distinction between the two is the abundance of spreading hairs throughout M. sylvatica, including the calyx, where M. scorpiodes has mostly appressed hairs throughout, including the calyx. Two other Myosotis species with a spreading-hairy calyx are the native Spring Forget-me-not (Myosotis verna) and the non-native Field Forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis). M. verna is distinguished by its typically all-white flowers that lack the yellow eye, plants that are few branched, and in Minnesota is restricted to bedrock outcrops in the central and western parts of the state. M. arvensis is distinguished by the lack of rhizomes, calyx lobes about as long as the tube, the floral tube shorter than the calyx making the flowers saucer-shaped not flat across the top, and flowers about half the size of M. sylvatica.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Lino Lakes, Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Tom - Moorhead, mn
on: 2016-07-07 13:46:41

I have a wooded portion of my property and I love the color and ease of care of the water forget me not but have seen that it is not native. Is it ok to plant these in Minnesota?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-07 14:08:24

Tom, Myosotis scorpioides (water forget-me-not) is highly invasive. Please do not plant this thing!

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2019-05-28 02:09:39

Found one plant of the growing next to the road on Cty Rd 77.

Posted by: Sherman - Duluth
on: 2021-11-30 20:25:52

I used to see these growing North of Duluth off of the Pequaywan Lake Road around Briar Lake at the family cabin around 1969. They grew in a dry area in the woods near the cabin and along the steps going down to the lake. A number of the plants had White and Yellow flowers, but most were the usual Blue and Yellow. Around 1987, I transplanted some white ones to my yard in Duluth, which then spread by seed. Many of the plants are Blue flowered, but there are quite a few White ones too. Deer have helped spread them to new patches in the woods, hundreds of feet away.

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