Marsh speedwell (Veronica scutellata)

Marsh speedwell in flower

Top facts

  • The large range of the marsh speedwell includes most of North America and northern Europe.
  • The marsh speedwell flowers between June and September.
  • In Ireland it was believed to be good luck for travellers to sew plants in the Veronica genus into their clothes.
  • The marsh speedwell can grow up to a metre in height.
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Marsh speedwell fact file

Marsh speedwell description

GenusVeronica (1)

The marsh speedwell (Veronica scutellata) and other members of the genus gain their common name from their regular occurrence on the side of roads, as they are thought to speed people up on their journey. In Ireland it was believed to be good luck for travellers to sew Veronica plants into their clothes (4).

The marsh speedwell is a perennial herb (3) (5) (6). It has purple-green or reddish, smooth-edged, lance-shaped leaves (3), which are oppositely arranged along the stout, hairless stems (2). The flowers have four blue, white or purplish petals, of which the upper petal is the largest. The flowers are marked with purple veins (3) and have two stamens in the centre. The numerous seeds are encased within heart-shaped capsules, which are positioned on slender, wide-spreading stalks (2).

Height: 20 - 100 cm (2)
Flower width: up to 1 cm (3)
Leaf length: 2 - 7 cm (2)

Marsh speedwell biology

There is very little information on the biology of the marsh speedwell, although it is known to mostly reproduce vegetatively. This perennial herb (3) (5) (6) usually flowers between June and September (2).


Marsh speedwell range

The marsh speedwell has a very large range, which stretches across most of North America (5) (7) and parts of northern Europe (5).


Marsh speedwell habitat

The marsh speedwell inhabits swamps (6), ditches (2) (6), marshes, meadows (2) (3) (5), fens (5) and riparian areas (2) (3) (5). It can occur in open habitats, as well as in areas with tall vegetation (5).


Marsh speedwell status

The marsh speedwell has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Marsh speedwell threats

There are not currently known to be any threats to the marsh speedwell.


Marsh speedwell conservation

There are not currently known to be any conservation measures in place for the marsh speedwell, although it is listed as threatened in Illinois and endangered in Maryland and Tennessee (7).


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Wetland with alkaline, neutral or only slightly acidic peaty soil. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing calcium carbonate).
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
An inflorescence (the flower-bearing reproductive shoot of a plant) in which the individual flowers all have distinct stalks and are attached to a central stem. The flowers at the base open first, and new flowers are produced at the tip as the shoot grows.
Relating to the banks of rivers and streams.
The male reproductive organ of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
Vegetative reproduction
Type of asexual reproduction (reproduction that does not involve the formation of sex cells) in which a new plant grows from part of another plant, rather than from seeds or spores. The resulting individual is genetically identical to the original plant.


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (January, 2013)
  2. Kershaw, L., Gould, J., Johnson, D. and Lancaster, J. (2001) Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta. University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta.
  3. Ozyigit, I.I., Dogan, I., Demir, G., Eskin, B., Keskin, M. and Yalcin, I.E. (2013) Distribution of some elements in Veronica scutellata L. from Bolu, Turkey: soil-plant interactions. Sains Malaysiana, 42: 1403-1407.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Biological Records Centre - Marsh speedwell (January, 2013)
  6. Rhoads, A.F. and Block, T.A. (2007) The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  7. United States Department of Agriculture - Marsh speedwell (January, 2013)

Image credit

Marsh speedwell in flower  
Marsh speedwell in flower

© Keir Morse

Keir Morse


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