Speedwell Veronica spp.

A wildflower to "speed you well": the speedwell is as common on roadsides verges as it is garden lawns.

Travellers in years gone by appreciated its bright blue petals and in Ireland it was sewn into clothes as a charm to protect against accidents.

Many speedwells you might see - such as the pale blue Slender Speedwell and Common Field Speedwell - were brought over from Asia by the Victorians. Our most common native variety is the Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys,(pictured) also known as "Bird's Eye". Germander derives from the Greek word chamandrua - meaning 'oak on the ground'. It may have been our ancestors saw this petite plant as a tiny oak tree, in a similar vein to Ground Elder.

Distribution

Found throughout the UK.

Habitat

A wildflower family with varied tastes: for example, Heath Speedwell (long stalked, with hairy stems) unsurprisingly prefers heathland whilst the Common Field Speedwell (bright blue with a pale lower lip) thrives on cultivated land. Germander Speedwell likes roadsides, woodland and grassland.

Best time to see

Germander Speedwell flowers from March to July. Other speedwell species vary slightly in their flowering times - for example, Heath Speedwell blooms later from May to August and the introduced Common Field Speedwell can often be seen all year round.

Did you know?

Vernacular names for Germander speedwell include Cat's eye, Eye of the child Jesus, Farewell, Goodbye. In the 18th Century they also became known for curing gout and dried leaves were used for tea.

Other types of speedwell include Thyme-leaved speedwell, Wood speedwell, Pink and Blue water-speedwell. Three low-growing annual species - breckland, spring and fingered speedwells - grow in waste places and on field-edges on the sandy soils of the East Anglian Breckland. Wall speedwell is a widespread annual on walls, pavements and cultivated and waste ground. Other similar common, sprawling annual weeds with solitary flowers are Green field-speedwell, grey field-speedwell, common field-speedwell and ivy-leaved speedwell. Spiked speedwell is an attractive and rare perennial of calcareous rocks and short grassland with two distinct populations in Britain. This species occasionally hybridises with garden speedwell from continental Europe.