Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Wednesday wildflower: the great Veronica hunt part 2.

There are good field days and there are bad field days.  Yesterday was a very good one.  This summer I'm collecting introduced Veronicas to photograph for the new Flora treatment.
Veronica catenata, Himitangi Beach.
I needed to go back to Palmerston North to collect the plants I'd left there last week, so I took advantage of the trip to stop off near Himitangi Beach where Veronica catenata has been collected once.  I hadn't seen specimens, but going by the description it's very similar to V. anagallis-aquatica.  My plan was to start at Foxton beach and follow Wylie's Road, which runs parallel to the shore, looking in drains along the way.
The coast between Foxton Beach and Himitangi Beach (Google Maps/Google Earth).
Right at the beginning of Wylie's Road, at the south end near Foxton Beach, is a small lake and a drain on the other side of the road: a likely spot.  And as soon as I got out of the car, I was looking at little pinkish Veronica flowers among the sedges.

Veronica scutellata, near Foxton Beach
The stems were slender and tangled, the leaves were very narrow, and the delicate inflorescences already carried rounded fruits on slender pedicels.
Veronica scutellata flower, the best of numerous field photographs.
But the flower seemed too wide open and the bracts were definitely too short for this to be V. catenata.  Then I noticed there was mostly just a single inflorescence for each leaf pair, and realised I was looking at V. scutellata.
Veronica scutellata fruit.
It's very difficult to photograph, especially in the wind, so I stuffed some into a box to do at home, but unfortunately the flowers closed in the dark, and they rather collapsed.  I've put some in a glass of water on the kitchen window sill to see if they'll open later.

I drove on towards Himitangi, stopping at every likely drain.  Nothing!  Almost ready to give up, I stopped past a rather stagnant-looking drain and culvert and walked back.  There were very tall Veronica plants, looking very like V. anagallis-aquatica.

Large plants of Veronica catenata growing in a drain near Himitangi Beach
Since I'd already photographed V. anagallis-aquatica last week, I thought I would just quickly get a few more shots of its growth form and habitat.
In V. catenata the bracts are longer than the pedicels
But then I noticed the plants had the darker and slightly glossy leaves, smaller rounded, pink flowers, and long bracts of V. catenata.  

Veronica catenata flowers
But not a single fruit to be seen, suggesting this might instead be the semi-sterile hybrid (V. anagallis-aquatica x catenata) that is common in Europe.  This needs to be followed up, something for another Veronica hunt another day.

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