Scrophulariaceae - Figwort Family
Linaria vulgaris
Linaria vulgaris
Veronica chamaedrys
Speedwell (Veronica) - this looks like Veronica chamaedrys (Germander speedwell)
Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)

Common Toadflax is also known as the wild snapdragon due to its resemblance to the
snapdragon familiar in gardens which opens and closes like a pair of jaws when gently
squeezed from the sides. This mechanism is to ensure some selectivity in choice of pollinator.
potential pollinating insects land on the lower lip or palate and only insects heavy enough to
depress the palate enough to open the floral tube can gain access to the pollen and nectar.
Linaria vulgaris. Note the nectar which is visible in the spurs.
The Scrophulariaceae includes some well-known and attractive plants, such as speedwells
(
Veronica), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Toadflax (Linaria) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum,
now included in the family Plantaginaceae or plantain family on the basis of DNA analysis but
here we are going to use the more traditional field taxonomy as this is more familiar and still widely used). Similarly, Veronica now belongs to Plantaginaceae.
Two orange hairy ridges form a channel (of about 1 mm diameter) to guide the proboscis of
the visiting insect. Only insects with long enough proboscises will ordinarily be able to reach
the nectar, in this case certain bees. The bee also needs sufficient strength to prize apart the
opening to the corolla (petal tube). Whilst feeding, the back of the bee may deposit any pollen
on the stigma and collect any pollen from the anthers.

The copious quantities of nectar that can be seen in Linaria vulgaris have made it prone to
nectar robbery. According to one study, short-tongued bees will steel the nectar without
pollinating the plant, by biting a hole in the corolla, whilst long-tongued bees behave as
genuine pollinators (Stout, J.C., J.A. Allen and D. Goulson, 2000. Nectar robbing, forager
efficiency and seed set: Bumblebees foraging on the self incompatible plant
Linaria vulgaris
(Scrophulariaceae).
Acta Oecologica 21: 277−283). This study found that 96% of open
flowers (in southern England, UK) suffered nectar robbery! These flowers are self-
incompatible and so cannot self-pollinate. However, despite the high incidence of nectar
robbery, seed set remained high as genuine pollinators were sufficiently abundant.
Digitalis - posted by Foolip on wikimedia Commons
Above: The Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Image courtesy of:
Foolip, Wikimedia Commons.
Each plant produces an average of 30 000 seeds, of which about half are viable. Each seed is
surrounded by a broad wing, however, experiments suggest that wind dispersal is of limited
importance, as most seeds fall close to the parent plant.
Cymbalaris muralis
Above: Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis. A more recent taxonomy places this genus
in the
Plantain family (Plantaginaceae). Unlike the Common Toadflax, the Ivy-leaved
Toadflax is self-compatible and frequently self-pollinates.
Veronica leaf trichomes
Veronica flower bud
Veronica stem trichomes
Veronica leaf trichomes
Veronica nectary
Veronica nectary
Veronica petiole trichomes
Veronica stem trichomes
Veronica stamens and corolla
Veronica persica (Common Field Speedwell, Persian Speedwell) - close-up

Speedwells (Veronica) are not the easiest plants to identify to species level and examination of both flowering and fruiting
stages is helpful. However, this plant was distinctive in having each flower born in a leaf (bract) axil on a pedicel (flower
stalk) which is much longer than the leaf. The lower petal (lower lip) was also clearly white. Combined with leaf shape and
flowering time (March: Veronica persica flowers all year round, though several other species also flower in March) makes
this determination likely. To be more sure, however, it is better to examine the fruit capsules if available.
Above: trichomes (hairs) were conspicuous on the reddish
stems, generally arranged in one wide and one pair of
narrow rows but with scattered trichomes between the rows.
These possibly serve as an 'assault course' to make it hard
for hostile insects to climb the stem without falling off.
Trichomes on the petiole (above) and on the leaf
(scattered mostly between the veins) are stouter and look
like they may be secretory. Short trichomes also occur
around the leaf margin (these possible serve to deter those
specialist herbivorous insects which target the leaf margins).
Above: a flower bud: the blue-white corolla is visible inside
the green sepals (calyx). Note the jointed hairs on the sepals which are non-glandular. Two stamens with white filaments
(swollen considerably around their mid-section for some
unknown purpose) can be seen, each bearing a pair of
anther locules (purplish in color) which have split vertically
into two valves to release the white pollen. Right: the lower
lip has been displaced to the right (whitish color).
Above: the stamen filaments anchor at the base of the upper lip. Around their base, extending onto the lower
lip, are 'icicle-like' trichomes filled with clear liquid to give them a beautiful glassy appearance (more beautiful
when viewed in real life as the photograph is only focused in a narrow plane), some of it already secreted as
droplets. This liquid is nectar and the nectary thus consists of specialized secretory trichomes born on the
corolla.

speedwell

Above and below: From the photographs this is most likely either Veronica persica or Veronica agrestis. The key differences between them are:

  • The fruit capsule consists of two compartments which are separated by a wide obtuse angle in Veronica persica and a narrow notch in Veronica agrestis.
  • The style on the fruit is long in Veronica persica, short and barely projecting from the notch between the two fruit compartments in Veronica agrestis.
  • The sepals and fruit are covered in non-glandular hairs in Veronica persica and gland-tipped in Veronica agrestis.
  • The corolla is 8-12 mm wide in Veronica persica, 4-8 mm wide in Veronica agrestis.
  • The remaining petal lobes are generally bright blue in Veronica persica, pale blue in Veronica agrestis.

From these photographs it has hard to be certain. Both have the lower petal lip white and both are found on arable and waste land. In both the leaves are borne on short stalks. Veronica persica was introduced to the British Isles from Asia in 1826 but is thought to be native to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran. It is self-fertile.

speedwell

speedwell

Now we come on to veronicas with all petals the same color: all blue. Two such examples are Veronica chamaedrys and Veronica polita.

Veronica chamaedrys (Germander Speedwell)

speedwell

Above and below: Veronica chamaedrys (Germander Speedwell). It occurs naturally in Europe (including Iceland), and northwestern Asia but has been introduced to parts of North America, South America and southern Africa and other parts of Asian (see: http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:811804-1). It is found on banks, in pastures and in woods.

speedwell

The stems are wiry, decumbent (lying prostrate along the ground without rooting at intervals) rooting only at the base and then ascending. The stem is branched at the base with branches ascending.

speedwell

The broadly ovate leaves are more-or-less sessile and is equipped with jointed hairs and subcordate at the base (slightly curved inwards at the attachment point) and the tips are obtuse (blunt and rounded). One of the diagnostic features of this species is the two opposite rows of hairs on the stem.

Veronica

The flowers are borne an lax racemes that originate from leaf axils (raceme: flowers attached by short stalks to the main flowering stem; lax as in widely spaced). The inflorescence stalks (peduncles) appear mostly in opposite pairs and are longer than the leaves. The individual flower stalks (pedicels) are longer than the bracts and longer than the sepals.

speedwell

Each flower has 4 sepals, which are pointed and narrow, and 4 petals; the sepals covered in jointed hairs, most of which are glandular (gland-tipped). The fruit is a two-part capsule with a wide angled notch between the two compartments at the apex and the style, attached at the base of the notch, is longer than the capsule. The peduncles, pedicels, bracts and calyx are covered by long glandular hairs.

speedwell

Small bees visiting the flowers of Speedwell reportedly usually land on one of the projecting stamens, clinging to it and potentially picking up some of the sticky pollen. The stamen filament has a flexible base and so droops under the bee's weight, lowering the underside of the bee onto the stigma, to potentially deposit pollen the bee may be carrying from an earlier visit to another flower.

Veronica montana (Wood Speedwell)

speedwell

Wood Speedwell is native to much of Europe and parts of northern Africa (see: http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/812334-1). It is found in woods and moist hedge-banks. It is similar to Veronic chamaedrys, with wiry decumbent stems rooting close to the base but stems hairy all around their circumference. the flowers are said to be all white with red-lilac veins in some sources, lilac in others. The stems are more decumbent than in Veronica chamaedrys.

Wood speedwell, Veronica montana

The leaves are always stalked and covered in short jointed hairs (shorter than those in Veronica chamaedrys). The plant is a lighter green than Veronica chamaedrys and the 4 sepals are much broader and covered in jointed hairs, which are usually non-glandular. The style is again longer than the fruit capsule but the capsule is a different shape with a wide obtuse angle separating the two compartments at both the base and apex.


Article last updated:

28 March 2015
6 June 2015
26 March 2016
16 April 2016
24 July 2016

23 Sept 2016
16 Sept 2021