Persian Speedwell

Persian Speedwell
aka, Birdeye Speedwell

"Yet, though remorse, youth's white-faced seneschal,
Tread on my heels with all his retinue,
I am most glad I loved thee -- think of all
The suns that go to make one speedwell blue!"

-Oscar Wilde

Originally a Eurasian & probably specifically a Near Eastern wildflower, Veronica persica has pretty much spread itself around the globe in all temperate to subarctic to subtropical regions, from sea level to mountain heights -- nearly the entire northern hemisphere, Iran's biggest export since Rumi.

Persian SpeedwellIt's best-known as Persian Speedwell, but also as Bird's-Eye, Birdseye, or Birdeye Speedwell, Winter Speedwell, or Common Field Veronica. It is so very tiny that it could be growing somewhere near you right this minute, & you'd never see it.

The blooms which look so big in these close-ups are about the size of a baby's fingernail, each bloom on its own stem, though the stem branchings are less than an inch long. At a half-inch or an inch tall, it's invasive but by & large harmlessly so.

Generally it's a creeping mat that crawls about in meadows, lawns, & street margins, or wherever it can, & is especially fond of newly turned soil of agricultural land. About three years ago I noticed it because it decided it wanted to be a climbing vine & get above the grass on our road margin immediately across the street.

To get away from the competition of rarely mowed grasses & muscaris & sundry weeds, it crept up a grey wall of stacked stones, & seemed for all the world a natural climber. Even with nothing left to hide it, it's so tiny most people would never see it.

Though wall-climbing isn't its most signal feature as reported in the literature, of the photographic portraits I've seen, a handful happen to show it clinging to cracks in walls or climboring thinly over rocks. The leaves grow along stems that can reach two feet or longer, though when flat on the ground these tend to wind about & upon each other, whereas on the wall it's much more obvioiusly vine-like & reaching, grasping whatever it can at leaf-nodes then carrying itself further in search of soil.

Persian SpeedwellI began adding notes about it to the garden diary, checking it out whenever I remembered, though for three years I didn't have a name for it. My accumulative notes recorded that it dries out in summer dropping its wee flat double-seeds, & always returns the following winter & blooms in spring in that exact same spot, so that I really began to look forward to it, kind of my "secret flower" which probably only the smaller children of the neighborhood would ever have glanced at.

It adjusts its life cycle to its climate, but here it is most flowerful in March & April, though the roundish wrinkled leaves are up by November or December, as it wants to beat-out the larger weeds' return so that it can have its share of sunlight despite tininess on the ground.

As it came back every year in the same place, but I haven't noticed it anywhere else in the surrounding streets, I assumed it was perennial. But it's an annual that self-seeds in-place rather easily.

It must be growing in lots of other locations nearby, but not having climbed up anything would not be as easily spotted. Still, I do get down on my knees to observe tiny wildflowers such as least hops clover, & this one just isn't that common in the neighborhood, though I'd expect a plant that conquered the whole northern hemisphere to be seen everywhere once one knows to look.

On the ground the small wrinkled hairy leaves on hairy stems can be quite thick, but on the wall the slender stems are not nearly as leafy. Little solitary blue flowers are dispersed evenly. Pretty as it is when finally noticed, it is nevertheless way too small to have horticultural value, so is just an unusually sweet little weed that hitchhiked around the world during the era of the Tall Ships which frequently brought alfalfa bails from the Near East along with every weed-seed from those fileds.

My thanks to Maria Yousoufian at the
Washington Native Plants Society
for identifying this species for me.


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