Slender speedwell provides splash of blue
Many of our spring flowers are white or yellow, so anything blue catches the eye. On 13th April 2020 I was taking a short walk down to the pier at Culkein Drumbeg (NC1133), when my eye was caught by splash of bright blue in mown grass at the edge of Carol Macdonald’s garden. It was a dense patch of slender speedwell Veronica filiformis (photo 1), with its centimetre wide blue flowers, born on characteristically long stalks (photos 2-3).
This speedwell is native to North Turkey and the Caucasus and was originally introduced to this country about 1808. Its spread in the wild began from the 1920s onwards, and it is now well naturalised in lawns and along grassy paths and roadsides throughout the British Isles. It becomes sparser in the north of Scotland and was first noted locally in 1957, on a ‘grassy roadside, Lochinver’. It was recorded in the Flora of Assynt from 9 tetrads, mainly around Lochinver (map 4), but not previously in NC13.
Some 12 species and subspecies of speedwells are found in Assynt, in a wide variety of habitats from cultivated land, marshy ditches and grasslands in the lowlands to spring-fed flushes high on our hills. Their flowers are usually blue, rarely pink or white, with four petals bearing dark nectar guides and just two stamens. Slender speedwell is one of the earliest to bloom and its massed flowers are conspicuous where they occur.
Ian M. Evans