'What are you doing?" he asked. His hands rested gently on my shoulders. 'Looking for that plant,' I answered, sticking a finger between the pages to mind my place. 'The one I saw in the stone circle. See...' I flipped the book open. 'It could be in the Campanulaceae, or the Gentianaceae, the Polemoniaceae, the Boraginaceae -- that's mostly likely, I think, forget-me-nots....'"
-- From OUTLANDER, by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 2
If it is possible for plants to travel through time, forget-me-nots would be well suited for the journey. They produce seeds that germinate easily and are contained in small pods that have a sticky surface, like a plant's version of velcro. When people or animals brush by them, the pods cling to clothing or fur and "hitchhike" to new locations, where they fall and the seeds start to grow. This spirit of adventure has carried cultivars of the Myosotis species from their native lands in Europe and New Zealand into gardens and woodlands all over the world.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Claire was so charmed by these pretty little blue flowers that she went back to the standing stones to see them again. In Michael Pollan's book, THE BOTANY OF DESIRE, he suggests that plants manipulate human beings, just as much as we humans manipulate them. With examples like apples, tulips, and marijuana, he explains how plants have used tactics, including sweetness, beauty and the ability to intoxicate, to persuade humans into cultivating, hybridizing and spreading them far and wide. If tulips can do it, why not forget-me-nots?
We'll never know if a tenacious seedpod, hoping to be transported to another time and place, was clinging to Claire's skirts as she approached the stones on that fateful day in the Scottish Highlands. All we know is that she went to look for tiny blue flowers at Craigh na Dun and fell through the stones. And so began the saga of OUTLANDER.
Botanical InformationFamily: Boraginaceae
Species: Myosotis sylvatica
Common name: Forget-me-not
There are several species of this plant. M. sylvatica is native to Europe so would be most likely the species Claire found at Craigh na Dun.
Plants are short-lived annuals or biennials. They reach 12" in height and the tiny flowers are usually blue with orange or white centers. There are also pink and white varieties.
CultivationForget-me-nots are easily grown from seed. Plant in early spring, as soon as the soil is warm enough to work. You will only have to plant seed once. If the plants are happy where you've started them, they will keep resowing themselves.
I've noticed that forget-me-nots often get powdery mildew shortly after they bloom here in the Pacific Northwest. I believe that is because they like moist soil and as the rains slow down and the temperatures warm, they don't get as much water as they would like. This stresses them out and makes them susceptible to disease. Dinna fash, though. They come back again, year after year.