Veronica austriaca Veronica austriaca Veronica austriaca

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Germander Speedwell

Veronica chamaedrys

  • Name also: Bird’s-eye Speedwell
  • Family: Plantain Family – Plantaginaceae
    (formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizomatous.
  • Height: 10–35 cm (4–14 in.). Stem ascending–erect, opposite sides hairy.
  • Flower: Corolla almost regular (actinomorphic), bright blue–purple, dark-striped in middle, 10–12 mm (0.4–0.48 in.) broad, fused, 4-lobed, wheel-shaped, short-tubed. Calyx 4-lobed, lobes linear, with glandular hairs. Stamens 2. Pistil a fused carpel. Inflorescence a lax, axillary raceme. Racemes often in pairs. Flower-stalk longer than subtending bracts.
  • Leaves: Opposite, lowest short-stalked, others stalkless. Blade ovate, with blunt base, both sides hairy, large-toothed.
  • Fruit: Obcordate, flat, shorter than broad, shorter than calyx, hairy capsule.
  • Habitat: Meadows, pastures, fields, yards, gardens, lawns, banks, logging sites.
  • Flowering time: May–August.

Germander speedwell opens its blue flowers in May at the earliest. Individual flowers have a short life span: they open in the morning, full of nectar and brilliant blue for one day only – the next day they are already withering, changing first to purple and falling to the ground by the evening. At its best, the depth and power of the colour of its blue flowers is almost unique among Finland’s wild flowers. Its natural sky-blue colour has influenced the heavenly properties that have been attributed to the plant. According to one interpretation, its generic name Veronica is formed of the Latin words vera (true) and icon (image), so they mean ’true image’. According to legend, a woman named Veronica wiped the sweat from Jesus’ face and the blood from his brow as he carried the cross, and an image of Christ appeared in the cloth she used. Germander speedwell’s flowers undoubtedly resemble a human face, and the stamens could be the eyes. Germander speedwell’s leaves are used in the same way as heath speedwell (V. officinalis) to make tea. In Sweden the plant is known as tea speedwell.

Large Speedwell

Veronica austriaca ssp. teucrium (Veronica teucrium)

Sometimes large speedwell (name also broadleaf speedwell), which has been cultivated as an ornamental for its impressive blue flowers, can be found growing by roadsides and in yards. As it shares habitats with similar-looking germander speedwell, one has to examine the details of their structure in order to differentiate between them. The easiest way is probably to check the calyx: large speedwell is five-lobed while germander speedwell has only four. After flowering the capsule on large speedwell is shorter than it is broad, and about same size as the calyx, while germander speedwell’s calyx is longer. There is nothing to stop germander speedwell being planted in the garden too, where it will flower as abundantly and impressively as it does in the wild.

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

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