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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Wild Forget-me-not (Mertensia lanceolata)

Also sometimes called "lungwort," "bluebells," or "languid-ladies," wild forget-me-not occurs in the western half of North Dakota. The overall range of the plant is from Saskatchewan to New Mexico, at elevations up to 10,000 ft.

Plants usually are about 4 to 8 inches tall. Several stems may arise from a stout, perennial root. Leaves are narrow, pointed, and about one to three inches long. Hairs with resinous bases spot the leaves. A few branches on top bear up to a dozen drooping, blue flowers about one-half inch long. The base of the stem is also bluish. Fruits are black, roughened nutlets.

Look for wild forget-me-not on dry prairies and eroded slopes. Grazing seems to have little effect on the abundance of wild forget-me-not. There are no known economic uses for the plant. However, under the obsolete "doctrine of signatures" practiced by the early herbalist-physicians, the spotted leaves were a sure indication that the plants would cure diseases of the lungs.

Wild forget-me-not is a member of the family Boraginaceae. Borage is an old name, presumably of folk-origin, for a European plant in the family. The genus was dedicated to the distinguished German botanist Franz Mertens (1764-1831). The species name lanceolata means "lance-shaped" in reference to the leaves. Wild forget-me-not was first described for science by the German botanist Frederick Pursh (1774-1829). Pursh was the first to publish upon many of the new plants collected by Lewis and Clark.

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