Water Speedwell

The classification of water speedwell is debated. There are at least 15 synonyms for this plant. Some taxonomists recognize each as a separate species, some combine certain species and retain others individually while many consider all to be a single species.  Not being a taxonomist and since specimens often have mixed characteristics, I will simply use the single species designation, Veronica anagallis-aquatica, and avoid the other synonyms.

Water speedwell is present on most continents and is extensively naturalized with its true native range uncertain. Much depends on which V anagallis-aquatica subspecies is being considered. This perennial grows in moist or wet habitats such as streams, ponds, marshy areas, springs, seeps, ditches and temporary pools below about 10,000 feet.

Erect or decumbent water speedwell stems arise from rhizomes. The lanceolate to ovate leaves are opposite, clasping or sessile (no stalks) and have smooth to toothed margins.

Water speedwell inflorescences are terminal racemes (unbranched with flowers maturing from the bottom upward) or they originate from leaf axils. Each flower has a slightly curved pedicel and a small green bract at the base of the pedicel. The four green sepals are fused only near the base. The blue, lavender or violet flowers are weakly bilaterally symmetric because the upper of the four petals is widest. At the base of each petal are purple lines. There are two stamens with blue to lavender anthers and a superior ovary with a single style.

Water speedwell reproduces sexually and vegetatively by taking root from the leaf nodes. The 2-celled seed capsule is ovoid and slightly flattened, with several tiny seeds in each chamber.

V anagallis-aquatica was originally placed in the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae) then moved to the Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae). Blue speedwell and brook pimpernel are other common names for water speedwell. The genus name, Veronica, is named for Saint Veronica. Supposedly the markings on some of the species in this genus resemble the markings on the handkerchief Veronica gave to Christ on his way to Calvary. The female name Veronica is the Latin transliteration of the Greek name Berenice – “she who brings victory”. Because water speedwell flowers open each time the sun strikes them and they can be enjoyed anew each day, this species was designated anagallis from the Greek “ana”/again and “agallein”/to delight in. Aquatica refers to the wet habitat in which this plant grows.

These specimens were photographed in early July between the North and South Elkins Barns at Ash Creek Wildlife Area near Adin CA (Lassen County).


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