It’s an awkward time in the world of botanical bloomings ... the flowers of the spring ephemerals (those short-lived species like bloodroot and hepatica) are done and withered, and the glorious blossoms of summer are just starting to pop open.
A forest floor covered in white trilliums was an easy and visually impressive find, but now the hunt intensifies for smaller stands or even individual flowers.
With the forest floor now heavily shaded, it is the open fields that may be the best source of botanical treasures. The sun-loving plants are now in full growth and most have their flowers waving in the breezes with high hopes of catching the attention of a passing butterfly or bee.
What I do find interesting is that many of our early summer flowers are collectively called weeds. Weeds? No longer glorious wildflowers? On behalf of these ‘put down upon’ plants may I say, “Harrumph!”
Remember, a weed is actually a wildflower growing where you don’t want it to grow. It’s not the flower’s fault to thrive in your well-tilled garden soil ... so lighten up with that oppressive view of survivalist flowers.
There is a group of these wildflower weeds called speedwells, of which there are about 500 species (Relax! Only a few grow in your lawn.) Although speedwells are in the snapdragon family, they have very open blossoms, usually white or blue in colouration.
The name ‘speedwell’ comes from their trait of blooming quickly and fading fast ... although they compensate by having a series of buds opening in consecutive timing, thus ensuring the plant has a good chance of pollination success over the early summer months.
The white-blossomed common speedwell is probably growing in your lawn right now. I kid you not, right under your nose, laughing at your feeble attempts of thwarting its very presence.
Like all ‘weeds’ it is tough and has evolved to withstand both drought and flooding, and can thrive on even the most barren of soils.
There is another species of speedwell that may also be enshrouded by the grasses in your less than perfect lawn (sorry, truth hurts sometimes). It is called corn speedwell and has the most teeny-tiny glorious flowers of anything else out there. Each sky-blue flower has a width of about one millimetre! (See the accompanying photograph.)
The name ‘corn’ pops up occasionally throughout the wildflower identification guide book, as it means ‘a small grain.’ Apparently this taxonomic label goes back to the Old Saxon language when ‘korn’ meant small grain.
And so corn speedwell means a short blooming flower that is very small, like a grain. I could fit maybe 20 blossoms on one fingernail.
The scientific name for corn speedwell is Veronica arvensis, which also has an interesting tale to tell about the history of this label. I’ll start with the specific name first as the genetic name will take a bit more time. ‘Arvensis’ is Latin for ‘field’, and many of our sun-loving plants have ‘arvensis’ attached as a descriptor to their name.
And now to tackle ‘Veronica.’ The most accepted theory as to this name is that it is from Saint Veronica, who is purported to be one of the women who accompanied Jesus while he carried the cross to Calvary. She took off her pale blue veil and wiped the face of the sweating and labouring Jesus, and behold His image magically transferred to the cloth.
Someone of higher power immediately swiped this artifact away from her and locked it up deep in the bowels of some church or another, but later acknowledged that it was Veronica’s veil to start with, so bestowed a sainthood upon her.
A sub-story is that ‘vera’ means true, and ‘icon’ means image, thereby convoluting to say that ‘veronica’ means true image, or that of Christ’s face caught in the fabric of the veil.
Which now brings us to the Language of Flowers, that list of what each flower species represents as an icon. Veronica species are well revered with florists, as to include a spray of speedwell (a.k.a. Veronica) can symbolize: courage, pleasure, love, devotion, loyalty, fidelity, positivity, healing, recovery, and devotion.
That long list is a huge responsibility for such a small and short-lived flower! But no doubt Ste. Veronica would be pleased.
So I guess the bottom line to all this information is that you will without doubt probably feel really, really guilty to remove this wildflower from your lawn; so best to sit back in the shade with a lemonade, wipe your sweaty face with a cloth, and just let it grow unmolested.