Stems: soft-hirsute, rather strict. Leaves: oblong to linear entire, sessile. Flowers: in numerous racemes, nearly erect, densely flowered; corolla funnel-form, five-lobed. Fruit: nutlets keeled, papillose-tubercu-late on the back, the margins armed with a single row of flat subulate prickles.
There have probably been more arguments between travellers over these flowers than over any other plant that grows in the mountain regions. Ninety-nine persons out of every hundred will gather the lovely sky-blue blossoms, delighting in their beauty and inhaling with joy the delicate fragrance of their perfume, under the firm conviction that it is the true Forget-me-not they are picking; whereas - alas for the shattering of a pretty romance! - it is only the sweet-scented blossoms of the False Forget-me-not they are gathering, which have as usual practised a successful deception upon the unwary.
The False Forget-me-not may, in reality, be easily distinguished from the true species by a very simple fact, which, once understood and noted, will never again be overlooked. When in fruit the "False" species bears numerous nutlets covered with prickles, in fact tiny burs, which give it the common name of Stickseed, and certainly these little seeds do stick, and stick very fast indeed, to the clothing of persons and the fur of passing animals. The true Forget-me-not has no burs.
The stems and long narrow leaves of the Lappula flori-bunda are covered with a slight soft down. It grows very tall under favourable circumstances, such as near water and on the open sunshiny slopes, and its flowers, blue as heaven itself, or very occasionally white, are funnel-form, the tube being very short and having its throat nearly closed by five flat lobes, which form a circular arching crest in the centre. The tiny stamens, and the style with its minute capitate stigma, are set inside this bright yellow circle, or "eye."
It matters little, after all, whether these flowers are "False" or true; they are beautiful to look upon, and very fragrant, as they hold their "Festival Of breaking bud and scented breath" high up in some alpine meadow, where the air is fresh and wholesome and where the whole world seems full of wonderful possibilities.
Lappula diffusa, or Rock Stickseed, is somewhat like the preceding species, but not so tall, and has wider and more pointed leaves. The blue flowers, too, are larger, though fewer in number, and the extremely prickly nutlets have stalks more than a quarter of an inch long.
Lappula echinata, or Burseed, has much smaller leaves and very tiny bright blue flowers, each individual blossom being little larger than a pin's head. These flowers grow in close leafy-bracted racemes, which are more or less onesided, and when in fruit the plant bears innumerable tiny burs. This is an introduced plant.