Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)
Description: This native perennial wildflower is ½–2½' tall, branching occasionally. The stems are light green, terete, glabrous, and rather stout; sometimes there is a ring of purple where pairs of leaves join the stem. The opposite leaves are up to 4" long and 1½" across; they are lanceolate, elliptic, oblanceolate, or ovate in shape and either smooth or serrated along their margins. The leaf bases are sessile or clasp the stem. The upper surfaces of the leaves are medium green and hairless, while their lower surfaces are pale to medium green and hairless. Both axillary and terminal racemes of flowers are produced; individual racemes have 20-65 flowers and they are 2-6" long. Individual flowers span about ¼" across, consisting of a green calyx with 4 lanceolate teeth, a pale blue or lavender corolla with 4 petaloid lobes, 2 stamens, and a pistil with a single style. Fine dark blue or purple lines radiate from the center of the corolla, which is slightly white or yellowish green. The slender ascending pedicels are about ¼" long. At the base of each pedicel, there is a linear green bract of the same length or a little shorter. The central stalk of each raceme, the pedicels, and the calyces of the flowers are either glabrous or glandular-pubescent. The blooming period occurs from late spring to late summer and lasts about 2-3 months. On each raceme, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. Each flower is replaced by a 2-celled seed capsule that is about ¼" long, ovoid, slightly flattened, and slightly notched at its apex; the outer surface of the capsule is either glabrous or glandular-pubescent. Each cell of the capsule contains several tiny seeds, which are distributed to some extent by either wind or water. After the fertile shoots die down, they are replaced by sterile shoots during the fall. These sterile shoots consist of low rosettes of oval leaves that taper to winged petioles. The root system is fibrous and either rhizomatous or stoloniferous. This wildflower reproduces vegetatively and sexually.
Cultivation: The preference is full to partial sun, wet to consistently moist conditions, and soil that is muddy or sandy-gravelly. Shallow running water and occasional submersion from flooding is tolerated. Depending on stage of development and growing conditions, the size of individual plants is rather variable.
Range & Habitat: Water Speedwell is occasional in NE Illinois, uncommon in central Illinois, and rare or absent in the southern section of the state (see Distribution Map). This species also occurs in Eurasia; some local populations may consist of introduced Eurasian plants. Habitats consist of various wetlands, including springs and seeps, muddy borders of ponds, temporary pools of water, and ditches.
Faunal Associations: Information is limited. Small bees and flower flies suck nectar from the flowers. The caterpillars of the butterfly Junonia coenia (Buckeye) occasionally feed on the foliage. The foliage is not known to be toxic to either mammalian herbivores or geese.
Photographic Location: Border of a pool of water at Judge Webber Park in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: Because of the small size of its flowers, Water Speedwell is relatively inconspicuous. This is one of the wetland Veronica spp., rather than one of the weedy Veronica spp. that are found in lawns and along roadsides. Because of the variations of local populations across its wide distribution, Water Speedwell has an unstable taxonomic history. Some authorities refer to this species as Veronica catenata, Veronica comosa, and other scientific names. Because it is not uncommon to find specimens with mixed characteristics and there is a lack of consensus among authorities, these postulated species have been lumped together as variations of Veronica anagallis-aquatica. Water Speedwell differs from other wetland Veronica spp. by the large number of flowers/capsules per raceme (20-65) and its sessile or clasping leaves. It is much larger in size than the weedy Veronica spp. that are found on lawns and roadsides; species in this latter group usually produce individual flowers from the axils of the leaves, rather than racemes of numerous flowers.