Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Lamiales - Family: Plantaginaceae
Heath Speedwell is a low-growing upright perennial with pinkish-blue flowers (occasionally white)..
With hairy stalked oval basal leaves, always in opposite pairs and visibly toothed, and smaller paired unstalked leaves along the stems, this common speedwell has finely hairy stems.Heath Speedwell grows to a height of typically 10cm. The small pale-blue to pinkish-mauve flowers are borne in tapering vertical spikes, and the four-lobed veined flowers are typically 7mm across.
Heath Speedwell is perennial herb found throughout Britain and Ireland, and it is equally common throughout most of northern and central mainland Europe, becoming incleasingly localised towards the far south.
This pretty little wildflower manages to grow in a variety of situations. We find it in acidic heaths, on woodland edges and in dryish grassy areas such as verges and waste land.
There are many Veronica species and separating them requires careful inspection of many characters; for example Heath Speedwell is sometimes confused with Veronica filiformis, commonly known as Slender Speedwell or Creeping Speedwell.
In Britain Heath Speedwell blooms from May until at least the end of August, but the most prolific displays are nearly always in June and July.
In the past the various speedwells (of which there are many in Britain and Ireland) were classified in the family Scrophulariaceae. DNA analysis has shown that the vast array of species (some 5000 worldwide) formerly placed in the family Scrophulariaceae (the Figwort family) are not monophyletic (truly close relatives), and many genera have been transferred to other families within the Lamiales - some, as with the speedwells, are now in the family Plantaginaceae (the Plantain family); others have joined the broomrapes within the Orobanchaceae; but several new families have also been set up to accommodate groups of former 'Scrophs'.
The leaves of various speedwell plants have been used in the past to make an expectorant tea for treating bronchial congestion and asthema.
The common name Speedwell may also be a reference to the claimed rapid effectiveness of this genus of plants when used as a medication.
Speedwells were considered lucky charms, their sight speeding travellers on their way. Veronica, the genus name, probably comes from the Latin adjective vera- meaning true, and -nica meaning image. When St. Veronica wiped Christ's forehead on they way to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary, an image of his face was said to have been left on the cloth she had used.
The specific epithet officinalis indicates that nthis plant was considered to have medicinal properties.
Brooklime Veronica beccabunga grows in the edges of streams and ditches; it has thick stems, dark green leaves and sparse flowers.
The plants shown on this page were photographed in Wales.
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