(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.


(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."