There are approximately fifty species in the genus, with considerable variation. A considerable number of the species have small (1 cm diameter or less) rather flat 5-petalled blue flower growing profusely on straggly stems, flowering in spring. Colour variation is somewhat frequent within species, and white or pink forms are common. They are popular in gardens, and cultivated forms often show a mixture of colours. Forget-me-nots prefer shade.
Forget-me-nots can be annual or perennial plants. Their root systems are generally diffuse. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower. The pods attach to clothing when brushed against and eventually fall off, leaving the small seed within to germinate elsewhere. Seeds can be collected by putting a piece of paper under the stems and shaking them. The seed pods and some seeds will fall out.
They are widely distributed. Most Myosotis species are endemic to New Zealand, though one or two European species, especially the Wood Forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica have been introduced in most of the temperate regions of Europe, Asia and America. Myosotis scorpioides is also known as scorpion grass.
In the United States of America, Myosotis alpestris is the state flower of Alaska. Forget-me-nots are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Setaceous Hebrew Character.
In the 15th century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers.
Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his amour he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to his loved one and shouted "Forget-me-not". This is a flower connected with romance and tragic fate. It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.
It is also told in pious legend that the Christ Child was sitting on Mary's lap one day and said that he wished that future generations could see her eyes. He touched her eyes and then waved his hand over the ground and blue forget-me-nots appeared, hence the name forget-me-not.
The forget-me-not was also used in the song "Once Upon a Summertime". The lyrics include "A bunch of bright forget-me-nots was all I let you buy me".
In 1948 the little blue Forget Me Not flower, or badge, was adopted as a Masonic emblem at the first Annual Convention of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. The flower, or badge, is now universally worn as a Masonic emblem in the coat lapel to remember all those that have suffered in the name of Freemasonry, and specifically those during the Nazi era.
In its German version, the title of the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has been translated into Vergiss mein nicht!.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada's symbol is the forget-me-not flower. The symbol represents memory loss - one of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
In Kingdom Hearts, in Halloween town, Sally gives Sora, Donald, Goofy and Jack a boquet of forget-me-nots as an ingredient for a heart, specifically for memory. In the Game Boy Advance sequel, Chain of Memories, Dr Finkelstein creates a potion to awaken true memories using forget-me-nots as a key ingredient.
The 2006 film, A Scanner Darkly features forget-me-nots in the final scene when they rise from the ground and are indicated as the source of Substance D. As the film ends, Keanu Reeves' character, Bob Arctor, hides one of the forget-me-nots in his boot, so that when he returns to the New Path clinic during Thanksgiving he can give it to his friends, people who are undercover police agents.
In the 2003 Peter Pan movie, Wendy describes Hook as having "eyes as blue as Forget-me-nots".
In the song "Are We The Waiting" by Green Day, the first line in the second verse is, "Forget-me-nots, second thoughts, live in isolation."