Plantaginaceae – Speedwell Family
Not to be confused with the banana-like fruits, plantains (Musa spp.), the scientific name for this family is derived from the Latin “planta” meaning “sole of the foot” for this group’s flat leaves that seem to lay on the ground.[i] With forbs, shrubs, and aquatic species, the Plantain/Speedwell family include a diverse array of morphological forms. Leaves can be whorled or oppositely arranged, simple or compound, and major veins appear to be parallel with entire leaf edges.[ii] The Plantaginaceae traditionally consisted of only three genera (Bougueria, Littorella, and Plantago – known collectively as Plantaginoids), but due to DNA-based classification changes, many plants formerly in the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), including many snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.) and foxgloves (Digitalis spp.), are now Plantaginaceae.[iii]
Several invasives established in our area are from the genus Plantago, (ex. Plantago lanceolata, Plantago major). Originally from Eurasia, these broadleaf herbaceous perennials are low to the ground, with basal leaves, prominent ribs, and greenish flower spikes atop round stalks with numerous small blooms that are challenging to differentiate or observe besides numerous, long yellow stamens that are wind pollinated.[iv] Plantago major contains Vitamin C and a number of chemical compounds known as a natural anti-inflammatory, including Salicylic-acid (part of the chemical compound used to make aspirin), antiseptics, and anti-histamines. For these reasons it was greatly valued in traditional old world medicine, and valued today by herbalists, for use in pain relief and as a balm to treat mosquito bites, bee stings, poison ivy/oak rashes, and small cuts or blisters.[v]
Veronica scutellata- Marsh speedwell
Species Code: VESC
Growth Habit: Low growing, rhizomatous, perennial forb reaching 10 to 50 cm tall. Grows erect to ascending in very wet areas. Often reddish or purplish along stems and leaves.
Leaves: Oppositely arranged in alternating cruciform whorls. Leaves sessile (attached directly to stem), long, pointed, and narrow (2 to 8 cm long by 2 to 15 mm wide on average), distinctive reddish to purple tinge, sometimes teeth along margins.[vi]
Stems: Usually glabrous, stem can be curved near base (decumbent), but are generally erect, often rooting at lower nodes.[vii]
Flowers: Inflorescences are delicate racemes of long, slender pedicles emerging from leaf axils. Light blue flowers are very small and only 6 to 10 mm across.[viii]
Fruits: Fruits are small 3 to 4mm long, heart shaped capsules. Multiple pods grow on long, thin stalks just above leaves. When mature, pods rupture and curl back to release 5-9 seeds each.[ix]
Ecology: Obligate Wetland Species (OBL), requires standing water and grows in marshes, vernal pools, pond edges, and drainage ditches.[x]
Natural History: Long, thin, opposite leaves with a purple tinge, and multiple pods arising from long, thin stalks just above the leaves, distinguish this plant. May be confused with many speedwell species look very similar, but the marsh speedwell is distinguished by its narrow, pointed leaves.
Callitriche heterophylla var. bolanderi
Gratiola ebracteata – Bolander’s water starwort
Veronica peregrina var. peregrina – Purslane Speedwell
[i] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010. 410.
[ii] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 376.
[iii] Simpson, M. Plant Systematics 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, MA. 2010.
[iv] Pojar, J., Mackinnon, A., Editors Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, Canada. 2004. 329
[v] Hiwa M. A., Ethnopharmacobotanical Study on the Medicinal Plants used by Herbalists in Sulaymaniyah Province, Kurdistan, Iraq.
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2016. 12:8 <https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-016-0081-3>
[vi] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 376
[vii] Gilkey, H. Handbook of Northwestern Plants, Revised Edition. Oregon State University Press; Corvallis, OR. 2001. 376
[viii] City of Eugene, Seed Collection Manual, Veronica scutellata, 2009.
[ix] City of Eugene, Seed Collection Manual, Veronica scutellata, 2009.
[x] USDA Plants Database: <https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=VESC>