Veronica - Speedwells
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“Veronica” is the common name of the European speedwell (V. agrestis). Saint Veronica was the maiden who, on the road to Calvary, wiped Christ’s brow with her kerchief. The cloth thereafter bore the imprint of His face. The church bestowed the name “vera icon,” meaning “true image”—the derivation of the saint’s name. The name “speedwell” refers to the plant’s supposed medicinal properties—it was used for myriad conditions and especially for skin diseases.
The small flowers are deep blue to violet or white, in loose elongated clusters (racemes). Usually there are four petals; the upper one is the largest and the lowest one smallest, so the flowers are irregular. Two long stamens, an even longer style, and opposite lance-shaped leaves help to identify these plants.
Some of the species have long been used medicinally. The stems leaves and roots are used. They are considered to be an astringent, expectorant and diuretic, used to treat coughs, stomach and urinary disorders, rheumatism and as a general tonic. The Cherokee used them thusly and treated earache with the juice. Tannins, bitters, essential oil and the glycoside aucuboside along with vitamin C are responsible for the medical effects.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Veronica
V. americana - American Speedwell
Stems often trailing, 10-60 cm long. Wet sites, often in water.
Flowers blue, 5-10 mm wide, several in slender clusters from leaf axils.
Leaves opposite, elliptic, glossy, often small-toothed, with short stalks.
V. anagallis-aquatica - Water Speedwell
Stems mostly erect, 10-60 cm long. Wet sites, often in water.
Flowers bluish, 4-6 mm wide, many in long, slender clusters from leaf axils.
Leaves opposite, lance-shaped, matte, non-toothed, without stalks.
V. wormskjoldii or V. nutans - American Alpine Speedwell
Stems single, 5-30 cm tall, glandular-hairy. Moist sites, subalpine to alpine.
Flowers dark blue, 4-6 mm wide, several in short, dense clusters.
Leaves oblong to egg-shaped, 1-3 cm long, hairy, in few pairs.
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Contents English Names Index