Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Wednesday wildflower: Veronica hederifolia

Last week I was at Lincoln, near Christchurch, working in the herbarium at Landcare Research.  I was checking my descriptions and identifying specimens towards my Veronica treatment for the new on line Flora of New Zealand, the eFlora.
Veronica hederifolia growing at the foot of an oak tree in the Liffey Domain, Lincoln.
One of the introduced species (there are about 20 of them) that I hadn't yet seen grows right there in Lincoln, so it seemed a good opportunity for a field trip to collect and photograph it.  Veronica hederifolia plants are soft annual herbs that creep along the ground.  Their flowers appear to be solitary in the axils of the upper leaves, but that depends on an interpretation.  Leaves that don't produce flowers are opposite, but there's a shift to alternate leaves, each of which has a flower in its axil.  It's probably reasonable as an alternative interpretation to consider this to be the initiation of a terminal inflorescence. In any case the leaf form doesn't change, whereas in many Veronica the flowers are produced in the axils of much smaller and simpler leaves, which are designated as bracts.
Veronica hederifolia growth form.
V. hederifolia has been growing there in Lincoln along the banks of the L2 river for over 50 years.  The botanist who collected it last—in 1985—was able to tell me exactly where to look, and there it was. There's one other collection in Landcare's herbarium, from St Mary's College grounds in Christchurch, and the Flora refers to other verified locations in Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, and Southland.

Although V. hederifolia looks a bit like V. persica in the way it grows, there are a lot of clear differences.  The leaf shape for one, but also the flowers are smaller, and the anthers are held right against the stigma so it self-pollinates, in spite of producing lots of nectar.  The fruits of V. hederifolia are hairless, circular, and barely notched, whereas fruits of V. persica are hairy along the edges of two widely diverging lobes.
Veronica hederifolia flower.
The calyx lobes are folded length-wise and have long hairs along their edges.
Veronica hederifolia, calyx.
I've taken a few small plants to try to grow it on at home, but annuals can be hard to transplant, so I'm hoping fruits and seeds will be ready when I go back to Lincoln next month.  Then I'll be able to finish my description by describing fruits and seeds and bring home some seeds to grow in the garden.


  1. If originally from the UK, perhaps ssp hederifolia?? Online BSBI Plant Crib very useful,


  2. Thanks David. On balance of characters it seems to be subsp. lucorum, but it's not entirely clear-cut. My draft text currently says: "New Zealand plants match descriptions of subsp. lucorum (Klett & Richter) Hartl in their thin leaves, pedicel hairs in one row, mostly arcuate but a few spreading, calyx lobes ciliate only, small corolla, and short style." I'll check the BSBI site, thanks.