Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wednesday wildflower: Veronica persica

I've written a few posts about native New Zealand species of Veronica, many of which are hebes.  Lately I've been looking more closely at the introduced species.  There are 16 of these if you regard V. plebeia as native.  One of the commonest is V. persica.
Veronica persica, Kaitoke, Wellington, New Zealand.
It is a common weed in gardens and roadsides.  There are two other common species in similar habitats: V. arvensis and V. serpyllifolia, but these both have much smaller flowers.
Veronica persica flower, Karori, Wellington, New Zealand (scale 1mm)
The flowers have been reported to be pollinated by syrphid flies (hover flies).  A syrphid will fly in to the flower rubbing off pollen from its abdomen onto the protruding stigma.  To hold on while it's feeding, it grasps the bases of the stamen filaments, but these are very narrow at the base and bend like a hinge.  This pulls the anthers into contact with the fly's abdomen, dusting off pollen there.
The native Veronica lilliputiana has creeping stems, tiny greyish leaves, and blue flowers with nectar guides.
Very few native Veronica have such bright blue flowers.  Mostly they're white, sometimes with a touch of blue or mauve.  But V. benthamii in the subantarctic Auckland & Campbell Islands is a good veronica blue, and the tiny creeping V. lilliputiana is also blue, but paler.  A similar thing happens in the forget-me-nots, Myosotis, where most native species have white or yellow flowers, yet two in the subantarctic islands are blue, M. capitata and M. antarctica.  These introduced Veronica also have nectar guides, coloured lines on the corolla lobes, which are thought to attract and guide pollinators.  Again, these are not common in native Veronica, but the speedwell hebe group (about half the former genus Parahebe, e.g., V. lanceolata) have them.  V. lilliputiana has both blue flowers and nectar guides.
Veronica benthamii (Bentham's hebe), SW Cape, Auckland Island.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Requesting permission to use your photo of Veronica lilliputiana to illustrate a nonprofit, limited-circulation LiveJournal entry on plants mentioned by Reginald Farrer (I understand this is also known as V. canescens). An example of my LiveJournal postings may be found here: http://lblanchard.livejournal.com/937482.html

  3. Hello Laura
    Sorry I have only just seen your comment today, hence the delay.
    Yes, thanks for asking and you do have my permission to use this photo (please add “(c) Phil Garnock-Jones” to the caption).
    But also, please make sure that this is the same species that Farrer was referring to. The name V. canescens is illegitimate when applied to the New Zealand plant (as V. canescens Kirk; that’s why we now have to call it V. lilliputiana), because it had already been applied three times to different species elsewhere. The one which carries this name legitimately is I believe European (as V. canescens Schrader) and is today treated as a synonym of V. incana (http://www.catalogueoflife.org/col/details/species/id/428e8157c9f653f0c279ead1e03ebfb7/synonym/dfeca5b20b9d0c0b1fe8af7b20894d8e) or V. spicata (Flora Europaea).
    I have a much better closeup photo of V. lilliputiana too if you’d prefer. Better to email me at my usual email address, phil.garnock-jones@vuw.ac.nz, if you want to consider that one, or if you want a higher resolution copy.
    Kind regards