Western spiked speedwell

Scientific name: Veronica spicata (ssp hybrida)

Status: Nationally scarce. Also protected plant (under Schedule 8 of Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981).

Flowering time: June – October

Description: Tall spikes of beautiful purplish-blue flowers (occasionally white or pink flowers). Can grow up to 100cm tall in sunny places of lime-rich soil.

Social history: On unquarried sites within the Avon Gorge, these perennial plants could have survived since the last ice-age, so may be up to 10,000 years old!

Taxonomy: Veronicaceae (speedwell family). Our taller western plants are often separated from those from East Anglia as a subspecies hybrida, but differences are not constant.

Global and national distribution: Rare in the UK. Widespread in Europe and across Asia from the Russian steppes to China and Japan.

Threats: Scrub encroachment, especially by alien evergreens.

Photographs: © Denice Stout, © Emma Davis.