Low-growing plant with single tiny blue flowers in my backyard, amidst all the other weeds that crowd out any real grass. One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. My personal definition of “wildflower” is “A flowering plant that grows without cultivation.” This weed is flowering, and we certainly aren’t cultivating it, although it’s growing more profusely than anything we are cultivating. The flower, when you look closely, is really quite pretty, and so warrants a photo and identification.
The first place I go when I don’t have any idea of a flower’s identification is to my copy of National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers–E: Eastern Region – Revised Edition. I checked there in the blue flower section, and pretty quickly spotted a close match – Corn Speedwell, Veronica arvensis. But while it was close, the leaf shape didn’t seem quite right, and the stamens in the book’s photo weren’t dark – although that could be a plant maturity issue. In any case, further research was warranted, and a confirmation elsewhere is always appropriate, so I went to the Internet.
A Google search for ‘corn speedwell’ turned up a link to IllinoisWildflowers.info, which is one of my favorite sites to use in identifying wildflowers due to their detailed descriptions and comparisons with similar plants. Much to my surprise I got a “not found” on the linked page. (The encouraging part of that is that even a place as esteemed as Illinois Wildflowers can apparently make an erroneous identification and later withdraw it.)
The next “corn speedwell” result in the Google search was a link to nearctica.com, a very nice site by Robert W. Poole with the lofty goal of providing “information on every species of living organism in North America.” As I started reading the description and looked at the drawing, I began to have my doubts. Then when I read that the flower for V. avensis is sessile – no flower stem, I knew we had something different – the ones in my backyard have a pedicel that is nearly an inch long.
Back over on Illinois Wildflowers, a “speedwell” search on the site turned up a good candidate – Bird’s-eye speedwell – Veronica persica. It seems like a pretty good match, including the pedicel length so on for some confirmation. Over to Nearctica, the Bird’s-eye speedwell description seemed strange – the flowers were on a raceme, with the peduncle rising above the leaves. Confusion. Then I saw that Nearctica’s Bird’s-eye speedwell is V. chamaedrys, not V. persica. Bit by “the common name problem.” I find the V. persica page at Nearctica (03/08/2012 update: Nearctica.com has made a slight change in direction, and this page is no longer available.) It’s listed as “Persian Speedwell.” The description not only closely matches V. persica at Illinois Wildflowers, it closely matches my plant.
I’m almost ready to call it, but one more check. The Plants database at the US Department of Agriculture is a great resource to find out if a plant has been identified in a particular area. Oh, no! While V. persica is known in Georgia, it’s only in a couple of counties, and not in Walker County. It’s also not listed as being in Hamilton County, TN, either. V. arvensis is listed in Walker County, but not in Hamilton County. So I re-read the descriptions of both plants in both sites previously referenced, as well as other Internet sites. Incidentally, V. persica is listed as “birdeye speedwell” in USDA Plants.
The nearly sessile blossoms of V. arvensis rules that out in my mind, and V. persica remains my best guess. It won’t be the first time I think I’ve identified a wildflower in a county where it wasn’t listed in USDA Plants, and then to have it added to the USDA database as being in that county at a later date. Maybe this will be another one.
Veronica persica. Birdeye Speedwell. Or Persian Speedwell, which seems to more suitable, given the scientific name.