Page 1

A N E W BRITISH

A NEW

BRITISH

AND A N E W BY H .

K.

AIRY

SHAW,

PLANT

VICE-COUNTY

B.A.,

225

PLANT.

RECORD.

Assist. R. Botanic Gardens,

Keiv.

Allioni, Auctarium ad Fl. Pedem. 5, 1789, 1.1, fig. 1 ; Coste, Flore de France iii, 1904, 36 ; Rouy & Foucaud, Flore de France xi, 1909, 51 ; Heukels, Fl. van Nederl. iii, 1 909, 166, fig. 201 ; Hegi, Illustr. Fl. Mittel-Eur. vi, 1913, 1, 51-2, figg. 30h-l; Bonnier, Fl. Compl. de France, Suisse et Belg, viii, 1926, 65, t. 452, fig. 2098.

YERONICA PRAECOX,

An account of this species and its British discovery in vicecounty 26, i.e. West Suffolk, has been published (cf. Wilmott in Journ. Bot. lxxi, 1933, p. 159); it would not, however, be Atting to let such a find pass without mention in our ' Transactions.' The Botanical Society & Exchange Club of the British Isles has dulv noted the plant (Report B.E.C. 1933, x. 485 : pub. 1934) as new to Britain.—Having been of the party referred to by A. J. Wilmott above, who were fortunate enough to detect Veronica preecox in a second locality, I may give an account of our find. Our party made headquarters at Thetford during 5-7 May 1933, with the object of seeing early Breck plants in flower. On the 6th morning we became separated owing to a mistake ; and, upon meeting again at a previously agreed locality, we learnt that Mrs. C. I. Sandwith had come upoa Veronica triphyllos by chance : she was passing a dull-looking fallow but, thinking it might yield something, had stopped to investigate. T h e whole party proceeded to the field in question, which certainly looked unpromising enough, and were delighted with our first sight of V. triphyllos ' in the flesh ' : the deeply divided leaves and remarkably deep ultramarine blue of the fiowers were unmistakable. We quartered the field pretty carefully and came upon several other specimens ' f this plant, but it was not abundant. Suddenly Miss M. O. Shaw made a pounce at something and asked, " Hullo : what is this ? " to which the rest of the party gathered quam celerrime. Well, what was it ? A species of Veronica, undoubtedly: but not I • triphyllos, for though the fiowers were the same colour they were appreciably smaller, and the leaves were only crenate-dentate or at most lobulate, not lohed almost to the base. Perhaps an erect form of V. polita or agrestis ? but not with fiowers of that colour. Much argument ensued, tili finally M r . N. Y. Sandwith, who carries in his head the critical characters of British and most Continental phanerogams, announced that " It must bePracox ! " Tableau : in centre, one rare weed ; surrounding, five adoring Botanists in radial symmetry.


226

A NEW BRITISH PLANT.

Further search revealed the presence of a few other specimens, some in close proximity to V. triphyllos : the two species evidently require almost exactly similar conditions. The field had probably lain fallow about two years, for the plant-population, consisting m a i n l y of annuals with Veronica hederifolia, L., as the commonest, was still sparse and the individuals could have scarcely begun to yet feel the effects of competition. Clearly under such conditions V. triphyllos and V. pracox must be generally sought; also evidently these conditions occur at only infrequent intervals, since a visit to the same field nearly a year later, on 30 March 1934, found it already under the plough with hardly a plant of any kind visible, and careful examination of an adjoining one, the density of whose V e g e t a t i o n showed it to have lain fallow at least three years, revealed no trace of any annual Veronicce except hederifolia. However, no doubt can exist that the seeds are lying dormant in many Breckland fields where the soil is periodically disturbed, and so may germinate whenever the necessary stimulus is forthcoming. No apology is needed for here obscuring the exact locality : enough is said to give anyone as good a chance ot discovering the plant as had the original Anders : search for it should be made also in the heathy country towards the sea in east Suffolk, since V. triphyllos is known to occur there, and V. pracox may well grow with it. Allioni's somewhat inaccessible original description miy be translated :— " VERONICA

praecox. N.

Veronica floribus solitariis,foliis cordatis profunde dentatis, peduncuhs longitudine calycis, fructibus oblongis. Loc. It flowers in the month of March in fields around Turin. Annual. Descr. This is nearest to VERNOICA arvensis, but is a n altogether different plant. As in arvensis it is many-stemmed at the root, stems erect, sometimes simple, more often branched with one or two branches. Whole plant is succulent, slightly larger [than arvensis], more hairy, especially on stems. Leaves ampler, cut into deeper and more numerous teeth; cordate rather than ovate. Floral leaves [bracts] at first 4-toothed, ultimate ones 2-toothed. Peduncle of flower as long as calyx. Flower of intense blue, obscurely striate ; in arvensis it is smaller, and pale blue. The expanded corolla equals calyx. Fruit oblongovate, as long as calyx ; in arvensis the fruit is transversely broad, broader than long and cordate at apex, and much shorter than calyx. In arvensis fruits are scarcely petiolate [sie], and close together, almost forming a spike ; in ours they are scattered, an separated by the length of peduncles."


A NEW BRITISH PLANT.

227

Why Allioni compared his plant with arvensis, rather than V. triphyllos or even V. verna, is obscure, for both are more similar and recorded by him from Piedmont (Fl. Pedem. i, 1785, 77-8), the former actually in ' open fields on hills near Turin ' where he found prcecox. Small chance exists of the last being confused with arvensis for, as he himself remarks, ' it is an altogether different plant.' Hegi's modern description (ut supra) may be usefully translated :—" Annual or biennial. Stern erect, often branched at base, 5-10 cm. high, almost glabrous below, finely crispeddowny and glandular-hairy above. Leaves glabrous, lowest petiolate, middle and upper sessile, ovate, rounded or truncate at base, blunt, unequally incised-serrate. Flowers subelongately peduncled, in loose and terminal and finally much elongated racemes. Bracts ovate, lower incised-serrate, upper often entire. Pedicels rather longer than calyx and almost as long as bracts, erect-patent. Calyx-segments obovate-oblong, blunt, as long as capsule. Corolla rotate, with very short tube, 5-7 mm. broad, deep azure. Capsule ovate, longer than broad, shallowly emarginate, style much exceeding the notch. Seeds ovate, hemispherical, hollowed out below, yellow-brown. March-May ; on arable land, fallow fields, earthy and grassy places." Rouy & Foucaud's Classification of Veronica (ut supra), with British species in appropriate positions, will show how prcecox differs from its allies :— Section i : P S E U D O L Y S I M A C H I U M , spicata, L. and V. hybrida, L.

Koch.—Veronica

Section ii: P L E U R O B O T R Y X , Fries.—Veronica montana, L.; V. scutellata, L . ; V. Anagallis-aquatica, L. ; V. aquatica, Ben.; V. Beccabunga, L . ; V. Chamadrys, L. and V. officinalis, L. Section iii: P O L Y P H Y L L E , Rouy & Fouc. a. Perennials : seeds flat on one face or biconvex.—V. alpina, L . ; V.fruticans, Jacq. ; V. serpyllifolia, L. ; V. humifusa, Dicks. b. Annuals ; seeds flat on one face or biconvex.— V. verna, L. ; V. arvensis, L. c. Annuals : seeds pelviform, convex on dorsal face and cupuliform on the other.—V. triphyllos, L . ; V. pracecox, All. Section i v : O M P H A L O S P O R A , Bess. ; Rouy & Fouc.— V. agrestis, L. ; V. didyma, Ten. (V. polita, Fries); V. persica, Poir. (V. Tourneforti, Gmel., V. Buxbaumi, T e n . ) ; V. hederifolia, L.


228

A N E W BRITISH

PLANT.

Ernst Lehmann made special study of the above Ssctions iii and iv under the name Alsinebe, Griseb. (Zeits. für Botanik ii, 1910, 577-602 ; cf. also Wulf in Monit. Jard. Bot. Tifl. 28, 1913, 1-15), and arranged the species in four series :— Series

MIKROSPERMA :

Veronica arvensis,

Series

MEGASPERMA :

V. hederifolia,

Series

PELLIDOSPERMA :

Series

AGRESTES :

V. triphyllos,

L.

and V.verna, L.

L. L.

and V.pracox, All.

V. polita, Fr. and V. Tourneforti, Gmel.

LYTHRUM HYSSOPIFOLIA, L . Hind's Flora shows that there is a very old record of this plant in vice-county 26, i.e. west Suffolk ; during the past summer I discovered it in the parish of Woodbridge, east Suffolk, which appears to be the first record for vice-county 25.—Druce in Comital Fl. Brit. Isles 1932, 126, besides instancing L. Hyssopifolia from thirteen vice-counties that are mainly south-east of a line from the Severn estuary to the Wash, wherein it may probably be regarded as native, gives twenty-three additional vice-counties to which it has been presumably introduced. Being thus, as Druce says, ' offen adventive,' its claim to be considered native in any locality should be scrutinised. The plant is, to again quote Druce, an ' inundatal frequenting wet places on gravelly soil: respecting the spot at which I found it, the pros and cons seem roughly equal. My first instinct was to regard it as an adventive, for it was near a chicken-run which I have for long known and explored as a good locality for aliens. On the other hand, the conditions in which it was growing corresponded well with those given for this species by Druce and other writers : the ground is certainly subject to occasional inundation and, though alluvial rather than gravelly, of poor quality. Moreover, the plants with which it was associated seemed genuine natives; some of these were interesting: Carex divisa, Huds., Lepidium latifolium, L., Apium graveolens, L., Puccinellia (Glyceria) Borreri, Bab. and P. (G.) procumbens, Dum.

It was in füll flower, looking something though very superficialis' like Glaux, in the first week of July ; by early September it was all in fruit; and late in that month the main stems were q u i t e dead, but a few shoots had been produced from the extreme base and were gaily flowering. The plant is an annual; only two specimens were s e e n , but I am hoping to renew its a c q u a i n t a n c e next summer.

A New British Plant and a New Vice-county Record  
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