Close-up View of Spiked Speedwell
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
The genus Veronica is the home of a
particularly beautiful group of wildflowers, the speedwells.
Unfortunately, most speedwell flowers are relatively small, and often
grow unseen amongst long grasses in the wild, or even in our
lawns. This article looks at a Spiked Speedwell cultivar which,
although larger than the common wildflower, is still considered a
‘compact’ variety growing to a maximum height of about 25 centimetres.
‘Royal Candles’ is a hybrid described as Veronica spicata x longifolia ‘Glory’.
extraordinarily colourful blue-purple spikes of flowers stand
upright above a dense clump of light green foliage. As can be
seen above, the plant certainly produces an abundance of these spikes!
The images that follow show the
main characteristics of the cultivar.
As always, it’s hard to believe
that a 10 centimetre high flower spike could grow from such a tiny
Early on, the tiny flower buds are
completely enclosed by a great many whorls of tiny, pointed, pale green
bracts (modified leaves) which are positioned almost parallel to the
As time passes, these bracts bend
out until they are almost perpendicular to the stalk. This allows
the actual flower buds to be seen. Close examination of a bud
reveals that it is surrounded by a whorl of short, green sepals
referred to as the calyx.
The spike blooms from bottom to
top, and near the tip, the flower buds are still hidden by many narrow
Although one would expect the top
of the spike to be rounded, in most cases its tip is strangely
flattened in the manner that can be seen in the three images that
follow. Note that the upper surface of the spike is usually white
Near the base of the spike, the
flower buds are packed much less tightly than higher up, and this
allows us to see the longer bracts, and shorter sepals which are
associated with each bud.
Even before the buds bloom, the
spike is an attractive structure. Notice the hairiness of the
surfaces of both bracts and sepals.
Images follow that show the middle
section of the spike at a later period. In the final image in the
sequence it is just possible to detect the edges of petals which are
tightly packed in a whorl at this stage.
Still later, the length of these
petals, (that form each flower’s corolla), has increased.
The colour intensity displayed by
flowers increases as they bloom.
Eventually, the bottom section of
the spike is in full bloom. From a distance, its deep purple
colour, with accents of green bracts, makes an exceptional
impression. Up-close, the flower packing is so tight, that it is
difficult to distinguish one flower from another.
If you look closely at the images
below, you may be able to distinguish the occasional reproductive
structure peeking out from between the forest of purple petals.
Compare the colouration of
reddish-purple buds with that of deep purple, blooming flowers.
Even with much higher
magnification, it is difficult to find a particular flower’s
reproductive structures. In the three images that follow however,
many pistils can be seen growing from the centres of the blooms.
(Each flower possesses a single upright pistil, and two stamens which
are positioned at right angles to the pistil, and are therefore in the
plane of the base of the corolla.)
The plant’s leaves are opposite,
and lance shaped, with distinctive serrated edges.
Higher magnification views of the
upper surface of a leaf show its serrated edge in more detail.
A leaf’s under-surface is slightly
lighter in colour, and has a raised system of veins.
Other Speedwells look dramatically
different than Veronica spicata
‘Royal Candles’. For comparison, here are several images
that show Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Veronica
serpyllifolia, a plant that grows in between blades of grass on
my lawn. Each flower is about 3 to 4 millimetres in diameter!
In this species there are four
petals, united at the base, with the lowest one being much narrower
than the others. The central stigma is light pink to red in
colour, while the two anthers are blue.
The genus name of these plants, Veronica, is thought by some to
derive from Saint Veronica. Others say that it is derived from
the Greek words ‘phero’
meaning ‘I bring’, and ‘nike’
meaning ‘victory’. This alludes to the plants’ supposed ability
to combat diseases.
The low magnification, (to 1:1),
macro-photographs were taken using a 13 megapixel Canon 5D full frame
DSLR, using a Canon EF 180 mm 1:3.5 L Macro lens.
An 10 megapixel Canon 40D DSLR,
equipped with a specialized high magnification (1x to 5x) Canon macro
lens, the MP-E 65 mm 1:2.8, was used to take the remainder of the
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of all
of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World of
A complete graphical index of all
of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the
October 2011 edition of Micscape.
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