Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)
Description: This herbaceous perennial wildflower is 8-24" tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The stems are erect, ascending, or sprawling; they are terete to slightly angular, light green to pale gray-red, and usually hairless. Pairs of opposite leaves about 1-3" long and 1/8–3/8" (3-10 mm.) across occur at intervals along the stems. These leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate, smooth or remotely toothed along their margins, and usually hairless; they clasp the stems. The upper surface of each leaf is hairless, medium green, and sometimes tinted purple.
Ascending to widely spreading racemes of 8-20 flowers develop from the axils of the middle to upper leaves; sometimes a single leaf in a pair of these leaves will fail to develop a raceme, forming a secondary leafy shoot instead. At maturity, these racemes are as long or longer than the leaves. The central stem and pedicels of each raceme are light green, slender, terete, and hairless (or nearly so). The pedicels are ½–¾" long. At the base of each pedicel, there is a linear leafy bract that is shorter than the pedicel. The flowers are ¼" across or a little wider, consisting of a pale blue or white corolla with 4 petal-like lobes, a short light green calyx with 4 lanceolate teeth, 2 stamens, and a pistil with a single style. Fine blue lines radiate from the throat of each corolla. The blooming period occurs from late spring to to early fall, lasting several months. For each plant, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. The flowers are replaced by seed capsules about ¼" across that are heart-shaped and flattened; they are slightly more wide than tall. Each seed capsule has 2 cells; each cell has several tiny seeds. The root system is rhizomatous or stoloniferous, forming vegetative offsets.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun to light shade, wet to moist conditions, and soil with some organic matter to retain moisture. Temporary flooding is readily tolerated. This boreal species prefers cool moist weather.
Range & Habitat: The native Marsh Speedwell is uncommon and state-listed as 'threatened.' It has been found in only a few counties in central and NE Illinois. Illinois lies along the southern range-limit for this species. In addition to North America, it also occurs in Eurasia. Habitats include marshes, wet meadows, low areas along springs, low muddy areas along ponds, and swamps.
Faunal Associations: Very little is known about floral-faunal relationships for this and other Veronica spp. The flowers are visited by small bees and flies, which seek primarily nectar. The caterpillars of the butterfly Junonia coenia (Buckeye) feed on the foliage of Veronica spp. The foliage is not known to be toxic to mammalian herbivores or geese, and it may be eaten occasionally by them.
Photographic Location: The photograph was taken at a nature preserve in Cook County, Illinois, by Lisa Culp (Copyright © 2009).
Comments: Other common names of Veronica scutellata are Skullcap Speedwell and Narrow-Leaved Speedwell. This delicate wildflower is somewhat similar to Water Speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) and American Brooklime (Veronica americana); these species occupy similar wetland habitats and bloom at about the same time of year. Marsh Speedwell differs from the latter two species by its narrow leaves (less than ½" across). These native species should not be confused with introduced Veronica spp. that are weedy annuals. Species in this latter group prefer drier disturbed areas and they tend to be smaller in size with much shorter leaves.