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Brooklime

Veronica beccabunga

  • Name also: European Brooklime (Canada)
  • Family: Plantain Family – Plantaginaceae
    (formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–60 cm (8–25 in.) Stem limp–ascending, roots from nodes, juicy, glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla almost regular (actinomorphic), blue and dark-striped, 5–7 mm (0.2–0.28 in.) wide, fused, 4-lobed, wheel-shaped, short-funnelled. Calyx 4-lobed, lobes glabrous. Stamens 2. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a short, lax axillary raceme. Flower-stalk shorter than subtending bract.
  • Leaves: Opposite, short-stalked. Blade elongated sphere–ovate, round-tipped, fleshy, with entire margin or finely serrated.
  • Fruit: Almost spherical, with shallowly notched tip, 2.5–4 mm (0.1–0.16 in.) long, glabrous, brown capsule.
  • Habitat: Streams, ditches, ponds, springs, excavation sites.
  • Flowering time: June–September.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened.

Brooklime is quite rare in the wild. It is quite common on the Åland Islands, but there are few stands elsewhere in Finland. The best place to look for brooklime is beside fertile ditches. More favourable places include land that has been turned over or otherwise disturbed because brooklime is a weak competitor that takes advantage of gaps in the vegetation.

The way that brooklime has specialized in wet conditions can be seen from its thick stem and loose leaves. The flowers however reveal that it’s a speedwell: the corolla has 4 lobes, is a shade of lilac blue, and it has only 2 stamens. In sunshine the flower sprawls out flat to tempt bees and flower flies, but in damp weather it is only half open and apparently self-pollinates. Brooklime also propagates itself asexually: side-shoots that have grown from the base break off and float away during the growing season or at the latest when the main stem dies. The species is estimated to be an ancient arrival on the mainland and it’s possible that it grew in southern Finland before people arrived. Nowadays at least human activity is important to the plant’s success: if it was completely protected its habitat would eventually overgrow and brooklime would disappear. On the other hand people have used brooklime too: the first vigorous green parts were eaten to protect against scurvy during the winter and especially in spring. It has been used as medicine against urine infections, probably without any significant success. The species’ oval fruit has probably been enough of a sign in more superstitious times that the plant would be useful in this way.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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