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Breckland Speedwell

Veronica praecox

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Veronicaceae (Speedwell)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland.

Blue, 4 petals
The flowers are dark blue with stalks longer than the upper leaves and sepal-teeth.
A flat, narrowly heart-shaped, deeply notched capsule. Hairy.
An annual flower with roundish leaves and shallowly toothed margins. The leaves are sometimes purple on the undersides.
Other Names:
Bird's-eye, Early Speedwell.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Veronica praecox is a species of flowering plant in the family Plantaginaceae. It is commonly known as the early speedwell or bird's-eye. It is native to Europe, but has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America. The plant is a low-growing perennial with blue or purple flowers that bloom in the spring. It is often used as a ground cover in gardens, and is also used in traditional medicine.


Breckland Speedwell, also known by its scientific name Veronica praecox, is a beautiful and delicate perennial plant that belongs to the plantain family, Plantaginaceae. It is native to the dry, sandy heaths and grasslands of Breckland in eastern England, but can also be found in parts of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Breckland Speedwell is a low-growing plant, reaching only 5-20cm in height. It has a sprawling growth habit and forms small mats or cushions of densely packed leaves. The leaves are oblong or ovate in shape, with smooth edges and a bright green color. The plant produces beautiful blue-violet flowers that are about 1-2cm in diameter, with four petals that are deeply notched at the tips. The flowers are produced in spring, usually from March to May, and they attract a variety of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hoverflies.

One of the most interesting aspects of Breckland Speedwell is its ability to thrive in extremely harsh and nutrient-poor environments. The plant is well adapted to the dry, sandy soils of Breckland, where it can endure long periods of drought and intense sunlight. Breckland Speedwell is also able to survive in areas where the soil has been disturbed, such as gravel pits or old quarries, making it an important pioneer species for ecological restoration projects.

Despite its adaptability, Breckland Speedwell is listed as a vulnerable species in the UK, and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This is due to the loss of its natural habitat, which has been largely destroyed or fragmented by human activities such as agriculture, forestry, and urbanization. In addition, the plant is highly sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, which may become more extreme and unpredictable due to climate change.

To help conserve Breckland Speedwell, it is important to protect and restore its natural habitat, such as heathland and grassland ecosystems. This can be achieved through a variety of means, such as reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, promoting sustainable land management practices, and creating wildlife corridors to connect fragmented habitats. Additionally, raising public awareness about the importance of Breckland Speedwell and other threatened plant species can help to generate support for conservation efforts.

Breckland Speedwell is a fascinating and beautiful plant that is well adapted to the challenging environments of Breckland in eastern England. Although it is currently listed as a vulnerable species, with appropriate conservation measures, it is possible to protect and preserve this important plant for future generations to enjoy.

Breckland Speedwell has been used in traditional medicine for many centuries. The plant was believed to have diuretic properties, and was used to treat a variety of ailments such as kidney and bladder problems, rheumatism, and even scurvy. In addition, the plant was also used as a natural dye, producing a blue color that was used to color textiles and clothing.

Today, Breckland Speedwell is primarily valued for its ornamental qualities, and is often used in rock gardens, borders, and as a groundcover in dry, sunny areas. The plant is easy to grow and care for, and requires little water or fertilizer once established. It can also be propagated easily by dividing the plant in early spring, or by taking stem cuttings in summer.

Breckland Speedwell is a plant that is rich in cultural and ecological significance, and is an important symbol of the unique heathland habitats of eastern England. By conserving and protecting this special plant, we can help to preserve the biodiversity and ecological integrity of these threatened ecosystems for generations to come.

One interesting fact about Breckland Speedwell is that it has a mutualistic relationship with a type of fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). These fungi form a symbiotic association with the roots of the plant, helping it to absorb essential nutrients from the soil. In return, the plant provides the fungi with sugars and other organic compounds, allowing them to grow and reproduce.

Studies have shown that the presence of AMF can greatly enhance the growth and survival of Breckland Speedwell, particularly in nutrient-poor soils. This highlights the importance of understanding the complex interactions between plants and other organisms in the ecosystem, and the need to protect and conserve these relationships as part of broader conservation efforts.

Another interesting aspect of Breckland Speedwell is its potential as a model organism for studying plant adaptation to extreme environments. The plant has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, which have explored its physiology, genetics, and ecology in detail. By studying the unique adaptations of Breckland Speedwell, scientists can gain insights into how plants are able to survive and thrive in the face of environmental stress, and potentially identify new strategies for improving crop yields and addressing other pressing environmental challenges.

In conclusion, Breckland Speedwell is a fascinating and important plant species that is rich in cultural, ecological, and scientific significance. By working to conserve and protect this unique plant, we can help to promote biodiversity, protect important ecosystems, and contribute to our collective understanding of the complex interactions between plants and other organisms in the natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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