Stems: erect, slender, usually simple. Leaves: oblong, ovate, sessile, mostly rounded at both ends, nearly entire. Flowers: in a short narrow raceme; corolla rotate, its tube very short, deeply four-lobed, the lower lobe the narrowest.
These small azure-blue blossoms win the love of many a traveller by reason of the fact that they are among the last flowers he sees growing in the crevices of the great moraines below the glaciers, and are frequently the first ones to meet his eyes as he comes off the snowy ice-fields after making some arduous ascent.
"The little speedwell's darling blue" renders it conspicuous, though its flowers are very small indeed, being clustered together at the tops of the stems. One marked peculiarity of the Speedwells is that the blossoms, which are cleft into four lobes, usually have the lower segment narrower than the rest. The Dutch call this plant "Honour and Praise," because it was once upon a time believed to contain valuable medicinal properties. Many claimed it to be an excellent remedy for scrofula, and it was the great Linnaeus himself who grouped it, together with all its relatives, under the family name of Scrophulariacea, or Figwort.
The term Veronica suggests far more beautiful associations. Here the plant is named after Saint Veronica, who in her turn was thus canonized because, according to an ancient tradition, she wiped the drops of agony from our Saviour's face when on His way to Calvary, and ever afterwards her kerchief bore the vera iconica, "the true likeness," of His sacred features.
Veronica humifusa, or Thyme-leaved Speedwell, may be recognized by its decumbent branching stems; that is to say, the stems are curved near the base and lie partly on the ground, rooting where the joints touch the earth. Usually these stems grow in pairs and bear at their upper ends spikes of pale gray-blue blossoms striped with dark blue, the tiny flowers also growing at close intervals lower down on the stalks. The small oblong leaves grow in opposite pairs. Occasionally the flowers are white.
Veronica americana, or Water Speedwell, is perennial by stolons, or leafy shoots developed in the autumn. The stems are stout, often rooting at the nodes, and usually branched. The leaves are lanceolate, acute, serrulate or entire and short-petioled. The peduncled racemes are borne in the axils of the leaves, and the flowers are pale blue with purplish stripes.