Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Veronica parviflora

One of the ways that many New Zealand veronicas differ from their nevertheless close northern hemisphere relatives is in woodiness; this is especially true of the hebes and less so for the speedwell hebes (see here for an explanation of why hebes are now classified in Veronica).  A few hebes are small trees, including Veronica parviflora, one of the two species that's native to the Wellington peninsula (the other is V. stricta; there's an old record of V. lanceolata from the Kaiwharawhara Stream, but it hasn't been seen there in  a long time).  The tree veronicas are big enough to be included in the spectacular new book on New Zealand trees by John Dawson and Rob Lucas.

V. parviflora comes into flower about this time of year.  There are good populations on hills near the road to the Happy Valley Landfill, and about halfway between Featherston and the Rimutaka Hill summit V. parviflora forms a low forest canopy.

The name parviflora means small flower.  The flowers are small, but there are so many of them and so tightly packed that they nevertheless make quite a show.  Almost every insect visits on warm days: flies (both syrphids and tachinids), small native bees, butterflies, honeybees, bumblebees, and beetles.

Here's a small native solitary bee visiting flowers in my garden:

The plants have a neat compact rounded form when they're young, and form small trees 3–4m tall when they're mature.  Their trunks can be up to 20 cm diameter, big enough to make things with.

This Veronica parviflora bowl is a treasured possession; it was a gift from a PhD student.

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