- Family: Plantain Family – Plantaginaceae
(formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock creeping.
- Height: 5–15 cm (2–6 in.). Stem quite erect, unbranched, hairy.
- Flower: Corolla almost regular (actinomorphic), dark blue–blue and base white, 5–7 mm (0.2–0.28 in.) broad, fused, 4-lobed, wheel-shaped, short-tubed. Calyx 4-lobed, lobes with ciliate edges, often blue. Stamens 2. Pistil a fused carpel. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, initially short, semi-spherical, extending as flowering continues. Flower-stalk shorter than subtending bracts.
- Leaves: Opposite, almost stalkless. Blade ovate–elliptic, almost with entire margins–shallowly toothed margin.
- Fruit: Elongatedly elliptic, with slightly notched tip, flat, approx. 6 mm (0.24 in.) long, longer than broad, longer than calyx, glabrous or sometimes long-haired, brown capsule.
- Habitat: Stream and river banks, snow-bed sites, fell meadows, shady rocky outcrops.
- Flowering time: July–August.
- Endangerment: Veronica alpina ssp. pumila is classified as an endangered species in Finland.
Alpine speedwell attracts pollinators to its dense inflorescence all through the short fell summer. It is not as showy as its relative rock speedwell (V. fructicans) which also thrives on the fells; its blue flowers are about half the size and look smaller than they actually are because the corolla is slightly bell-shaped. In bad weather the flowers stay closed, but the seeds develop from self-pollination and seed production is thus ensured. Alpine speedwell thrives in many kinds of dampish places and is quite widespread across the northern fells. On the other hand, it doesn’t grow on individual fells further south. Like many other Arctic animals and plants, alpine speedwell probably thrived in southern Finland as the ice sheet receded, and as the weather warmed up it would have followed the retreating ice north and also higher up into the fells.
Alpine speedwell has varying amounts of hair, and it has been divided into two subspecies. The capsule and underside of the subtending bracts on the type species (ssp. alpina) are glabrous, but on ssp. pumila they are hairy. The former’s corolla is also slightly darker than the latter’s.