FIGWORT FAMILY - ScrophulariaceaŽ: Common Speedwell; Fluellin; Paul's Betony; Groundhele

Veronica officinalis

Flowers--Pale blue, very small, crowded on spike-like racemes from axils of leaves, often from alternate axils. Calyx 4-parted; corolla of 4 lobes, lower lobe commonly narrowest; 2 divergent stamens inserted at base and on either side of upper corolla lobe; a knob-like stigma on solitary pistil. Stem: From 3 to 10 in. long, hairy, often prostrate, and rooting at joints. Leaves: Opposite, oblong, obtuse, saw-edged, narrowed at base. Fruit: Compressed heart-shaped capsule, containing numerous flat seeds.

Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, uplands, open woods.

Flowering Season---May-August.

Distribution--From Michigan and Tennessee eastward, also from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Probably an immigrant from Europe and Asia.

An ancient tradition of the Roman Church relates that when Jesus was on His way to Calvary, He passed the home of a certain Jewish maiden, who, when she saw drops of agony on His brow, ran after Him along the road to wipe His face with her kerchief. This linen, the monks declared, ever after bore the impress of the sacred features--vera iconica, the true likeness. When the Church wished to canonize the pitying maiden, an abbreviated form of the Latin words was given her, St. Veronica, and her kerchief became one of the most precious relics at St. Peter's, where it is said to be still preserved. Medieval flower lovers, whose piety seems to have been eclipsed only by their imaginations, named this little flower from a fancied resemblance to the relic. Of course, special healing virtue was attributed to the square of pictured linen, and since all could not go to Rome to be cured by it, naturally the next step was to employ the common, wayside plant that bore the saint's name. Mental healers will not be surprised to learn that because of the strong popular belief in its efficacy to cure all fleshly ills, it actually seemed to possess miraculous powers. For scrofula it was said to be the infallible remedy, and presently we find Linnaeus grouping this flower, and all its relatives, under the family name of Scrofulariaceae.