(Leptandra Virginica; Veronica Virginica of Gray) Figwort family

Flowers - Small, white or rarely bluish, crowded in dense

spike-like racemes 3 to 9 in. long, usually several spikes at top

of stem or from upper axils. Calyx 4-parted, very small; corolla

tubular, 4-lobed; 2 stamens protruding; pistil. Stem: Straight,

erect, usually unbranched, 2 to 7 ft. tall. Leaves: Whorled, from

3 to 9 in a cluster, lance-shaped or oblong, and long-tapering,

sharply saw-edged.

Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods, thickets, meadows.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Alabama, west to Nebraska.

Slender, erect white wands make conspicuous advertisements in

shady retreats at midsummer, when insect life is at its height

and floral competition for insect favors at its fiercest. Next of

kin to the tiny blue speedwell, these minute, pallid blossoms

could have little hope of winning wooers were they not living

examples of the adage, "In union there is strength.' Great

numbers crowded together on a single spike, and several spikes in

a cluster that towers above the woodland undergrowth, cannot well

be overlooked by the dullest insects, especially as nectar

rewards the search of those having midlength or long tongues.

Simply by crawling over the spikes, of which the terminal one

usually matures first, they fertilize the little flowers. The

pollen thrust far out of each tube in the early stage of bloom,

has usually all been brushed off on the underside of bees, wasps,

butterflies, flies, and beetles before the stigma matures;

nevertheless, when it becomes susceptible, the anthers spread

apart to keep out of its way lest any leftover pollen should

touch it.

"The leaves of the herbage at our feet," says Ruskin, "take all

kinds of strange shapes, as if to invite us to examine them.

Star-shaped. heart-shaped, spear-shaped, arrow-shaped, fretted,

fringed, cleft, furrowed, serrated, in whorls, in tufts, in

wreaths, in spires, endlessly expressive, deceptive, fantastic,

never the same from footstalks to blossom, they seem perpetually

to tempt our watchfulness, and take delight in outstripping our

wonder." Doubtless light is the factor with the greatest effect

in determining the position of the leaves on the stem, if not

their shape. After plenty of light has been secured, any aid they

may render the flowers in increasing their attractiveness is

gladly rendered. Who shall deny that the brilliant foliage of the

sumacs, the dogwood, and the pokeweed in autumn does not greatly

help them in attracting the attention of migrating birds to their

fruit, whose seeds they wish distributed? Or that the clustered

leaves of the dwarf cornel and Culver's-root, among others, do

not set off to great advantage their white flowers which, when

seen by an insect flying overhead, are made doubly conspicuous by

the leafy background formed by the whorl?