AMERICAN VERONICA (Veronica americana)
Other names: Speedwell; American brookline
Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae)
Physical Description: American Veronica: Veronica americana.
- Grows from 6 inches to 3 feet high at maturity, depending on soil conditions.
- Flowers are small, blue to purple in color, with 2 stamens and 4 unequal petals.
- Flower stems occur at junction of leaf and stem. Lower trailing stem joints root readily.
- Seed purses are heart-shaped and relatively large.
- leaves are gently toothed and arranged in pairs.
Habit and Range: American veronica flourishes along streams and in wet ditches from east-central Alaska and the central Yukon to California. There are a number of other Veronica species scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest. Veronica americana is the species most noted for food and medicine, but all are likely to be safe for consumption.
American Veronica – Salad Green and Scalp Conditioner: The dainty veronica is more than just a bank-brightening wildflower. It provides a vegetable, said to be superior to watercress, a bush medicine, and a kitchen cosmetic. It is also a wonderful addition to the home herb garden if you can provide the moist conditions it loves.
Harvest Calendar: Spring to early summer: veronica leaves and stems. The plant is best before flowering. Use fresh for food; dry or tincture for medicinal use.
Food Use: The upper stems and leaves of veronica can be nibbled as a snack, added to salads, or steamed lightly as a potherb. The leaves are considered spicy and refreshing by some, bitter by others. As always, taste buds react differently to flavors so you’ll just have to decide for yourself. In Japan and parts of Europe, the greens are considered a delicacy. The leaves and stems (add flowers if you wish) can be steeped for tea. Overseas, it’s very popular and nicknamed tea de l’europe; the taste is reminiscent of Chinese green tea. Those who find the vitamin C-crammed veronica too strong flavored might try cooking the plant in changes of water or using it in casseroles blended with milder greens.
MEDICINAL USE: Though Veronica officinalis is the ‘official’ European species for medicinal use, Veronica americana has similiar properties. The flowering herb is used, and administered as tea, tincture, or juice. Veronica is mainly used as an expectorant for respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and asthma. Veronica is often combined with coltsfoot for lung problems; with dandelion root for liver complaints; with nettle and shepherd’s purse for stomach ulcers; and with elder for eczema and acne. Veronica is traditional in cough syrups, sore throat gargles, and skin salves.
Cosmetic Use: Veronica infusions can be used in hair conditioning rinses and skin-clearing herbal steams. Veronica is also an ingredient in massage oils and ointments. Add it to your bath water for a soothing soak.
Caution: When picking any water-loving greens like veronica, cattails, mare’s tail, or buckbean, always be certain to avoid polluted areas. If you have any doubts concerning the purity of the habitat, you can add a halozone tablet or a bit of chlorine bleach to the wash water.
Historical Use: According to legend, the genus is named after Saint Veronica, who wiped Christ’s face as He was on route to be crucified. She was left with Christ’s ‘true image’ (vera iconica) on her handkerchief. Another tale has it that medicinal use of veronica began after a shepherd observed an injured deer heal its wounds by eating and rolling in the herb. The shepherd reported his findings to the kingdom’s sick king, who tried the plant, speedily became well, and showered the shepherd with riches.
Miscellaneous Info: The dainty blue blossoms are sometimes called “forget-me-not’s” but they are entirely different from the state flower of Alaska, Myosotis. The forget-me-not that is Alaska’s floral emblem is a member of the borage family; veronica is a figwort. Blue flowers, whether they are forget-me-not’s, veronica, or something else, are a traditional gift of good luck and remembrance for departing guests. The greeting ‘Godspeed’ or ‘speedwell’ that accompanied the present basically means “God be with you.” Speedwell is one of the the nicknames for veronica.
Discovering Wild Plants – Alaska, Western Canada and the Northwest. Published by Alaska Northwest Books. (c)1989.