COMMON SPEEDWELL FLUELLIN PAUL'S BETONY GROUNDHELE
(Veronica officinalis) Figwort family
Flowers - Pale blue, very small, crowded on spike-like racemes
from axils of leaves, often from alternate axils. Calyx 4-parted;
corolla of 4 lobes, lower lobe commonly narrowest ; 2 divergent
stamens inserted at base and on either side
of upper corolla lobe
; a knob-like stigma on solitary pistil. Stem: From 3 to 10 in.
long, hairy, often prostrate, and rooting at joints. Leaves:
Opposite, oblong, obtuse, saw-edged, narrowed at base. Fruit:
Compressed heart-shaped capsule, containing numerous flat seeds.
Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, uplands, open woods.
Flowering Season - May-August.
Distribution - From Michigan and Tennessee eastward, also from
Ontario to Nova Scotia. Probably an immigrant from Europe and
An ancient tradition of the Roman Church relates that when Jesus
was on His way to Calvary, He passed the home of a certain Jewish
maiden, who, when she saw the drops of agony on His brow, ran
after Him along the road to wipe His face with her kerchief. This
linen, the monks declared, ever after bore the impress of the
sacred features - vera iconica, the true likeness. When the
Church wished to canonize the pitying maiden, an abbreviated form
of the Latin words was given her, St. Veronica, and her kerchief
became one of the most precious relics at St. Peter's, where it
is said to be still preserved. Medieval flower lovers, whose
piety seems to have been eclipsed only by their imaginations,
named this little flower from a fancied resemblance to the relic.
Of course, special healing virtue was attributed to the square of
pictured linen, and since all could not go to Rome to be cured by
it, naturally the next step was to employ the common, wayside
plant that bore the saint's name. Mental healers will not be
surprised to learn that because of the strong popular belief in
its efficacy to cure all fleshly ills, it actually seemed to
possess miraculous powers. For scrofula it was said to be the
infallible remedy, and presently we find Linnaeus grouping this
flower, and all its relatives under the family name of
Scrofulariaceae. "What's in a name?" Religion, theology,
medicine, folk-lore, metaphysics, what not?
One of the most common wild flowers in England is this same
familiar little blossom of that lovely shade of blue known by
Chinese artists as "the sky after rain." "The prettiest of all
humble roadside flowers I saw," says Burroughs, in "A Glance at
British Wild Flowers." "It is prettier than the violet, and
larger and deeper colored than our houstonia. It is a small and
delicate edition of our hepatica, done in indigo blue, and wonted
to the grass in the fields and by the waysides.
'The little speedwell's darling blue'
sings Tennyson. I saw it blooming with the daisy and buttercup
upon the grave of Carlyle. The tender human and poetic element of
his stern, rocky nature was well expressed by it."
Only as it grows in masses is the speedwell conspicuous - a
sufficient reason for its habit of forming colonies and of
gathering its insignificant blossoms together into dense spikes,
since by these methods it issues a flaunting advertisement of its
nectar. The flower that simplifies dining for insects has its
certain reward in rapidly increased and vigorous descendants. To
save repetition, the reader interested in the process of
fertilization is referred to the account of the Maryland figwort,
since many members of the large family to which both belong
employ the same method of economizing pollen and insuring fertile
seed. In this case visitors have only to crawl over the tiny
>From Labrador to Alaska, throughout almost every section of the
United States, in South America, Europe, and Asia, roams the
THYME-LEAVED SPEEDWELL (V. serpyllifolia), by the help of its
numerous flat seeds, that are easily transported on the wind, and
by its branching stem, that lies partly on the ground, rooting
where the joints touch earth. The small oval leaves, barely half
an inch long, grow in pairs. The tiny blue, or sometimes white,
flowers, with dark pathfinders to the nectary, are borne on
spike-like racemes at the ends of the stem and branches that rear
themselves upward in fields and thickets to display their bloom
before the passing bee.
PALE, or NAKED, or ONE-FLOWERED BROOM-RAPE
(Thalesia uniflora; Aphyllon uniflorum of Gray) Broom-rape
Flowers - Violet, rarely white, delicately fragrant, solitary at
end of erect, glandular peduncles. Calyx hairy, bell-shaped,
5-toothed, not half the length of corolla, which is 1 in. or less
long, with curved tube spreading into 2 lips, 5-lobed,
yellow-bearded within; 4 stamens, in pairs, inserted on tube of
corolla ; 1 pistil. Stem: About 1 in. long, scaly, often entirely
underground; the 1 to 4 brownish scape-like peduncles, on which
flowers are borne, from 3 to 8 in. high. Leaves: None. Fruit: An
elongated, egg-shaped, 1-celled capsule containing numerous
Preferred Habitat - Damp woods and thickets.
Flowering Season - April-June.
Distribution - British Possessions and United States from coast
to coast, southward to Virginia, and Texas.
A curious, beautiful parasite, fastened on the roots of honest
plants from which it draws its nourishment. The ancestors of this
species, having deserted the path of rectitude ages ago to live
by piracy, gradually lost the use of their leaves, upon which
virtuous plants depend as upon a part of their digestive
apparatus; they grew smaller and smaller, shriveled and dried,
until now that the one-flowered broom-rape sucks its food,
rendered already digestible through another's assimilation, no
leaves remain on its brownish scapes. Disuse of any talent in the
vegetable kingdom, as in the spiritual, leads to inevitable loss:
"Unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath
not, even that he hath shall be taken away."
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