Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Great Veronica Hunt —Part 6.

I'm writing this in Melbourne, where I'm about to fly home after a wonderful three weeks in Australia. I wasn't specifically on a Veronica hunt, but kept my eyes open anyway, just in case.

I didn't see any Veronica in Queensland or around Sydney. The first I saw was the introduced V. arvensis in Bega, a small New South Wales town.  Australia has many of the same weedy speedwells that New Zealand does, so I was more interested to see plants of the indigenous species.
Mallacoota inlet, Vic.
We spent a couple of days with friends at Mallacoota in the far east of Victoria, and there came across V. plebeia growing beside a track in coastal forest in the wonderfully-named Croajingalong National Park.
Veronica plebeia, Mallacoota, Vic.
The flowers were closed just as they often are in New Zealand, needing a warm sunny day to open.  If they don't get to open, I assume they self-pollinate, because they always seem to set fruits.

The flower below was photographed on a cultivated plant in New Zealand, where V. plebeia is widespread and considered by some botanists to be native.  It is introduced and weedy in some other parts of the world though, so it does have the ability to be invasive.
Veronica plebeia, from a cultivated plant in New Zealand.
That was it for wild speedwells the whole trip, but my sister-in-law, near Ballarat, had some small plants of another Australian native, Veronica gracilis, ready to plant out in the garden, and one of these was in flower.
Veronica gracilis, cultivated near Ballarat, Vic.
The plants are strongly rhizomatous, and this one even had a shoot coming out of the drainage hole in the bottom of its pot.

Australia has 23 native species of Veronica, classified in section Labiatoides, and they are the sister group to the large New Zealand clade (section Hebe) that includes the hebes and their relatives (Albach & Briggs 2012).  Thus, although they look much more like northern speedwells than New Zealand hebes, they are known to be more closely related to the hebes.  And because of that fact, it's misleading to classify them as Veronica unless you classify our hebes in Veronica as well.


Albach, D; Briggs, BG. 2012. Phylogenetic analysis of Australian species of Veronica (V. section Labiatoides; Plantaginaceae). Australian Systematic Botany, 2012, 25, 353363