Speedwells  Veronica species
 
 
FamilyPlantaginaceae,  Speedwell family
Perennial – up to 7 cm tall, c. 20 cm spread
Flowering – March to October
Soils – Neutral or acidic                                                              (Germander speedwell)
Sun – Full sun to full shade
 
Speedwells can usually be distinguished by the blueish flowers with four petals and two stamens, and the heart-shaped seedpods. The commonest Speedwells in gardens are annual weeds, but several perennial species have a creeping, prostrate growth form and delightful blue flowers that make them a charming addition to any lawn, although they are regarded by sward purists as a troublesome weed.1.
 
The strongest blue colour is found in the Germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys shown above, also known as bird's-eye speedwell, or cat's eyes. This species is distinguished by the two rows of hairs running down either side of the stem, and it grows well in shady situations. It was first recorded by Gerard in 1597,2.  and rejoices in several local names including blue-eyes, Billy bright-eye and Mother-breaks-her-heart. It is supposedly good for jaundice.3. 
 
 
 
The species of speedwell most often found in lawns is easily overlooked, as its spikes of pale flowers scarcely project above the grass. This is the thyme-leaved, or thymeleaf speedwell, Veronica serpyllifolia, (left) though the yellowish,  lozenge-shaped leaves are much bigger than those of thyme. This is a native plant, first recorded by “the father of English Botany” William Turner in 1548,6. and is found throughout Britain and Ireland.
 
 
On acidic ground the heath speedwell Veronica officinalis may be found, while in woodlands the wood speedwell Veronica montana is quite similar but with leaf stalks > 6 mm long. Both species are uncommon and have rather disappointing flowers.
 
Not many species of insects are recorded as feeding on these speedwells, but germander speedwell is a foodplant for the heath fritillary butterfly Melitaea athalia.7.
 
 
References
 
1. RHS speedwell profile 
 
2. Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p 417
 
3.  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London. p289
 
4.  Stace, A.C and Crawley, M.J. (2015) Alien Plants. New Naturalist Harper Collins p585
5.  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London. p634
 
6.  Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p418
 
7. See the Biological Records Centre database 
 
 
Page written by Camilla Lambrick, compiled by Steve Head
Perhaps the most delightful is slender speedwell Veronica filiformis (left) that our family used to call the “Little pretty weed” with its sky-blue flowers on delicate threadlike stems. A native of eastern Europe, it was introduced from the Caucasus in 1838.4. It has many common names including creeping speedwell, threadstalk speedwell and Whetzel weed. In Shropshire it is called “Sin”, because it is “so attractive and so prevalent”.5.
 
Speedwells  Veronica species
 
 
FamilyPlantaginaceae,  Speedwell family
Perennial – up to 7 cm tall, c. 20 cm spread
Flowering – March to October
Soils – Neutral or acidic   
Sun – Full sun to full shade                                      (Germander speedwell)
 
Speedwells can usually be distinguished by the blueish flowers with four petals and two stamens, and the heart-shaped seedpods. The commonest Speedwells in gardens are annual weeds, but several perennial species have a creeping, prostrate growth form and delightful blue flowers that make them a charming addition to any lawn, although they are regarded by sward purists as a troublesome weed.1.
 
The strongest blue colour is found in the Germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys shown above, also known as bird's-eye speedwell, or cat's eyes. This species is distinguished by the two rows of hairs running down either side of the stem, and it grows well in shady situations. It was first recorded by Gerard in 1597,2.  and rejoices in several local names including blue-eyes, Billy bright-eye and Mother-breaks-her-heart. It is supposedly good for jaundice.3. 
 
 
 
Perhaps the most delightful is slender speedwell Veronica filiformis (left) that our family used to call the “Little pretty weed” with its sky-blue flowers on delicate threadlike stems. A native of eastern Europe, it was introduced from the Caucasus in 1838.4. It has many common names including creeping speedwell, threadstalk speedwell and Whetzel weed. In Shropshire it is called “Sin”, because it is “so attractive and so prevalent”.5.
 
The species of speedwell most often found in lawns is easily overlooked, as its spikes of pale flowers scarcely project above the grass. This is the thyme-leaved, or thymeleaf speedwell, Veronica serpyllifolia, (left) though the yellowish,  lozenge-shaped leaves are much bigger than those of thyme. This is a native plant, first recorded by “the father of English Botany” William Turner in 1548,6. and is found throughout Britain and Ireland.
 
 
On acidic ground the heath speedwell Veronica officinalis may be found, while in woodlands the wood speedwell Veronica montana is quite similar but with leaf stalks > 6 mm long. Both species are uncommon and have rather disappointing flowers.
 
Not many species of insects are recorded as feeding on these speedwells, but germander speedwell is a foodplant for the heath fritillary butterfly Melitaea athalia.7.
 
 
References
 
1. RHS speedwell profile 
 
2. Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p 417
 
3.  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London. p289
 
4.  Stace, A.C and Crawley, M.J. (2015) Alien Plants. New Naturalist Harper Collins p585
5. .  Vickery, R. (2019). Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A to Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London. p634
 
6.  Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p418
 
7. See the Biological Records Centre database 
 
 
Page written by Camilla Lambrick, compiled by Steve Head
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