- Family: Plantain Family – Plantaginaceae
(formerly Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae)
- Growing form: Annual herb.
- Height: 5–15 cm (2–6 in.). Stem erect, unbranched, upper part sparsely hairy, sometimes also with glandular hairs.
- Flower: Corolla almost regular (actinomorphic), blue, approx. 3 mm (0.12 in.) broad, fused, 4-lobed, wheel-shaped, short-tubed. Calyx 4-lobed, with glandular hairs. Stamens 2. Pistil a fused carpel. Inflorescence a dense, terminal raceme extending in fruit. Flower-stalk shorter than subtending bracts. Lower bracts pinnatilobed, upper (narrowly) elliptic with entire margins.
- Leaves: Opposite, lower leaves short-stalked, upper leaves stalkless. Blade ovate–lanceolate, with glandular hairs, lower sparsely serrated, upper deeply lobed.
- Fruit: Cordate, flat, with glandular hairs throughout, yellowish brown capsule.
- Habitat: Rocky meadows, banks, pastures, fields, fallow fields, waste ground, vegetable patches.
- Flowering time: May–June.
As its name suggests, spring speedwell blooms in the springtime. Its preferred meadows and rocky outcrops are only momentarily damp after the winter before they dry out in the summer heat. Immediately after the snow melts – sometimes already in the autumn – spring speedwell germinates, flowers and ripens its seeds in this short space of time. The initially dense inflorescence extends as the fruit ripens so that by the middle of the summer most of the stem becomes a fruiting raceme as it turns brown. This annual plant’s abundant seed production is its guarantee of survival. An unusually warm and dry summer can dry out its habitats too early, but even in bad years the seed bank germinates the following spring. There are however big differences between annual stands: sometimes there is an abundance of plants and sometimes it seems like they have completely disappeared.
Spring speedwell is reminiscent of wall speedwell (V. arvensis) with regards to its appearance and habitat, even though its habitat extends slightly more to the north, and it is perhaps slightly more typical on rocky outcrops and it doesn’t extend far into environments that have been created by humans. Spring speedwell’s uppermost leaves are lobed, while wall speedwell’s are entire and narrowly elliptic.