Birdeye Speedwell


Winter is not a time for growing crops, but some plants thrive in it. If you take a walk around your neighborhood in winter you’ll see a delicate creeping vine with fuzzy leaves and stems and small blue flowers. It can be quite showy.

This winter annual is called birdeye speedwell (Veronica persica). Some incorrectly call it bird’s eye speedwell. Flowers have four light blue petals with darker blue stripes that are fused at the base. Stems with toothed edged round to oval leaves sprawl along the ground and thrive in cool weather.

Also called Persian speedwell, it is common to improved soils. It responds well to lime and nitrogen and is far less common to dry waste places. Each plant can produce over 6000 seeds and each one can remain viable for 30 years. It’s not surprising these weeds are so common. They can be found all over North America.

Mulching landscape beds encourages this invader as the practice amounts to planting the seeds. In lawns, the creeping rooted stems often escape lawnmower blades. Most common broadleaf weed killers used on lawns aren’t very effective against this plant either.

Some might not consider this a problem. The main purpose of many lawns is to control erosion and keep mud from being tracked into buildings. I remember my father saying that as long as the lawn was green he didn’t care what was growing.

Birdeye speedwell certainly meets this criterion, and it does it while sporting delicate blue flowers. It also requires little mowing to maintain suitable turf height. Best of all, it is barely significant once warm-season turf species begin their growth in spring. That claim can’t be made for white clover. In flower gardens speedwell also provides winter color and holds tight to the ground.

It reminds me a little of verbena the way it spreads over an area and adds colorful blooms. I believe it could even be marketed as an ornamental for late fall through early spring use much like pansies are. Flowers aren’t nearly as large, but their numbers can somewhat make up for it.

Like many wild herbs, speedwell has a long history of usage. Introduced from Europe by early settlers this plant originated in Asia. Many different cultures utilized this and other speedwells for food and medicine.

Birdeye speedwell is high in vitamin C and can be eaten raw or cooked, but it’s too bitter for my palate. I much prefer chickweed, sow thistle or bittercress as cold weather wild greens.

A tea steeped from the flowers has a pleasing delicate flavor, but it is tedious to collect enough for more than a cup or two. Some claim tea from the flowers can suppress coughs, but I can’t personally substantiate the assertion.

Herbalists also claim consuming this plant can clear sinus infection, ease eye soreness, and help eyesight. Speedwell preparations have been used as muscle relaxants, too. Other claimed attributes are treatment of migraine headaches, mouth sores, and throat sores. I’m unaware of major research presently underway, so I’m skeptical.

Thick stand of birdeye speedwell

Thick stand of birdeye speedwell

 

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture in northeastern North Carolina.

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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10 Responses to Birdeye Speedwell

  1. Unlike most plants, this weed with four petals thrives in winter. It can produce as many as 6ooo seeds and each one is good for 30 years, which I think is pretty cool. It is low maintenance, and they start to take a back seat to plant species that grow well in warmer weather when spring starts to roll around. The plant came from Asia, but was introduced from Europe by early settlers and can to this day be used for food and medicine. -Katlyn Doepker

  2. jordan2197 says:

    Bird eye speedwell thrives in winter. Bird eye speedwell is a delicate creeping vine that has fuzzy stems, leave and has small blue flowers that can be quite showy. Bird eye speedwell is an winter annual. It has four light blue petal with darker stripes that are fused at the base. It has stems with toothed edged round to oval shaped leave that spread along the ground.
    Bird eye speedwell is sometimes often called Persian Speedwell and is common improved soils. It responds to lime, nitrogen and is far less common to dry waste places. Each plant can produce seeds over 6000 of them. Each one can remain adaptable for 30 years. Bird eye speedwell are weeds, there found all over North America. In lawns Bird eye speedwells creeping rooted stems can sometimes escape lawnmower blades. It certainly meets the criteria. It while sporting the delicate blue flowers.

  3. ashleychory says:

    Bird eye speedwell is sometimes often called Persian Speedwell and is common improved soils. and Bird eye speedwell thrives in winter. It also has four light blue petal with darker stripes that are fused at the base. and Each bird eye speedwell plant can produce seeds over 6000 of them. Each one can remain adaptable for 30 years. and there are Many different cultures utilized this and other speedwells for food and medicine. Birdeye speedwell is high in vitamin C and can be eaten raw or cooked. taking this plant can clear sinus infection, ease eye soreness, and help eyesight. -Ashley Chory

  4. this all looks really cool im glad that im reading this

  5. WInter is usually a bad time for growing crops, but some crops can deal with it. Mulching landscape beds encourages this invader as the practice amounts to planting the seeds. In lawns, the creeping rooted stems often escape lawnmower blades. Most common broadleaf weed killers used on lawns aren’t very effective against this plant either.

  6. Morgan Murray says:

    The Birdeye Speedwell, also known as the Persian speedwell can improve the soil since it responds well to lime and nitrogen and is far less common to dry waste places. I find it amazing that each plant can produce over 6000 seeds and each one can remain viable for 30 years. It seem beneficiary since it controls erosion and keeps mud from being tracked into buildings.

  7. Sam DeLaVergne says:

    This plant originated from Asia. it can also be called Persian speedwell. I don’t neccessarly like the texture of the plant but i like the flowers that bloom from it.

  8. This plant seems like it would be great for colds since it clears your sinuses. I like how the plant has little flowers because it makes it stand out more because the leaves seem kindof plain.

  9. IThis plant originated from Asia. it can also be called Persian speedwel IT can produce as many as 6ooo seeds and each one is good for 30 years

  10. trevashley96 says:

    This plant would be great in the winter time because it clears your sinuses. I hate having a stuffy nose and sometimes cold medicines don’t help.

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