This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Familiar to us from its almost universal occurrence on cultivated ground this plant is found in the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, W. Asia, and the Himalayas. It is unknown in seed-bearing deposits. In Great Britain it is absent in Brecon, Radnor, Cardigan, S. Lines, Isle of Man, Wigtown, Peebles, Selkirk, Stirling, Main Argyll, Mull, X. Ebudes, W. Ross, Caithness, and the Hebrides, as far as the Shetlands. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Ivy-leaved Speedwell is a typical cornfield weed, which comes up year after year in great abundance in all cultivated fields, as well as in gardens, on waste ground, and by the roadside here and there. It is associated with Corn Buttercup, Poppies, Charlock, Heart's Ease, Spurrey, Fool's Parsley, and many other cornfield weeds.
The stem is trailing, branched, round, soft, covered with soft hair, stringy internally. As the second Latin and English names imply the leaves are ivy-shaped, i.e. 3 - 5 lobed, with wide angles. The leafstalks equal the leaves, and the leaves are alternate, heart-shaped at the base, fleshy, hairy.
The flowers are pale blue, in the axils, borne on 1-flowered flower-stalks, which in fruit are turned back. The sepals (4) are heart-shaped, acute, hairy on the margins. The corolla is bell-shaped, with oval petals, the lower of which are less than the calyx, and hairy within. The capsule consists of 2 swollen heart-shaped lobes, containing 2 seeds in each.
As a trailer the plant is not more than 3 in. high. It Mowers in March up to June. The plant is annual, reproduced by seeds and division of the root.
The flowers are small and solitary, appearing in succession, the male and female organs ripening at once. They are less conspicuous than others in the same genus, being pale blue. Few insects visit them, as with many other cornfield weeds. They give good seed, this being the commonest species of Veronica, so that the self-pollination which occurs when the flower expands must be effective. The anthers open before the flowers open, and their surface, covered with pollen, touches the stigma. The honey is secreted by a yellow, fleshy disk below the ovary at the base of the tube, and hairs protect it above. If insects visit it they are not more liable to cross- than to self-pollinate the flowers.
The Hymenoptera, Andrena parvu/a, Hal ictus nitidiusculus, H. Ieu-copus, H. albipes, visit it in the spring on warm sunny days.
The seeds are contained in a capsule which breaks up into several parts, and the seeds are dispersed around the parent plant.
Ivy-leaved Speedwell is especially a sand plant, and nearly always found on sand soil or gravel.
Peronospora grisea and Sorosphaera veronicae attack the leaves.
Veronica, Fuchs, is from the Latin vera, true, and the Greek eikon, picture; and Lonicerus says it was called after some king of France, but it was probably named from Veronica of religious legend. The second Latin name, meaning: "ivy-leaved", refers to the shape of the leaves.
This plant is called Bird's Eye, Botherum, Corn Speedwell, Dotherum, Hen-bit, Ivy Chickweed, Morgeline, Mother of Wheat, Winter-weed.
The petals were said to display in their markings a representation of the kerchief of St. Veronica, imprinted with the features of Christ. A legend runs that when Our Lord was on His way to Calvary bearing His Cross He passed by the door of Veronica, who, beholding the drops of agony on His brow, wiped His face with a kerchief or napkin. The sacred features remained impressed on the kerchief.
Photo. Dr. Somerville Hastings - Ivy-leaved Speedwell (Veronica hederaefolia, L.)
Essential Specific Characters: 234. Veronica hederaefolia, L. - Stem prostrate, leaves cordate, 5-7 lobed, petiolate, flowers pale blue, axillary, single, sepals ciliate, seeds concave.