No. 94. Veronica becabunga.
Names. Water Speedwell.
Fr. Veronique aquatique.
Vulgar. Neckweed, Water Purslain.
Classif. Nat. Order of Veronicides. Diandria monogynia L.
Genus VERONICA. Calyx 4 parted, unequal persistent. Corolla rotate, 4 lobed, unequal. Stamens 2, equal exert. One pistil, style and stigma. Capsule bilocular polysperm.
Sp. Veronica becabunga. L. Stem erect, creeping; leaves subsessile, ovate oblong, smooth; racemes axillary, opposite, multiflore, capsules obcordate, compressed. Var. Americana. Raf. (or Procumbens.) Stem procumbent, rooted at the base; leaves elliptical, acute petiolate, subserrate, capsules swelled, obcordate.
Description of the American variety. Root perennial, fibrose, white. Stem creeping at the base, assurgent afterwards, about a foot high, with few branches, round and smooth. Leaves opposite, on short petioles, very smooth, oblong base rounded, end acute, subserrate. Racemes on long axillary opposite peduncles, lax, elongate, and multiflore; flowers on long pedicels, axillary to linear bracts, corolla blue. Capsules bilobed, swelled, although subcompressed.
History. The genus Veronica is pery prolific in species, and was fruitful in anomalies. The genera Hebe and Leptandra, have been divided from it. I have long ago reformed it still further, by establishing some other genera and subgenera with it. The genera are:
1. Panoxis. Raf. Calyx equal, 4 parted. Corolla tubular, quadrifid equal. Capsule oblong acute, type V. salicifolia, V. cataracta, and V. macrocarpa.
2. Ponaria. Raf. Calyx 5 parted, equal. Corolla 4 lobed, equal. Type V. pona, V. latifolia, V. laciniata, &c.
3. Allophia. Raf. Calyx campanulate, 4-5 cleft. Corolla subrotate. unequal, 4-5 parted. Stamens 3 or 4, incurved. Stigma truncate. Capsule obcordate. V. rotundifolia. R. & P.
After these needful subtractions, this genus contains yet 100 species or more, which may be divided into two subgenera.
1. S. G. Becabunga. Corolla rotate, 4 lobed. Capsule obcordate or notched bivalve. Mostly all species.
2. S. G. Endasia. Raf. Corolla 4 parted, undulate cuneate, tube hairy. Capsule oval, 4 valved. V. crenulata, V. maritima, V. spuria, V. spicata, V. complicata. Is it also a N. G.?
The actual species is native of the two continents, but in America it is at least a striking variety, if not species. It grows from Canada to Virginia and Kentucky, near waters, brooks, &c. blossoming in June. Many other European species, equally medical, are found all over the United States, such as the V. serpyllifolia, V. peregrina, V. scutellata, V. arvensis, V. agrestis, V. officinalis, &c; they all appear to differ a little from the European types. The V. officinalis or common Speedwell, the most valuable, is distinguished by stem creeping, hairy, with ovate rounded crenate leaves, and flowers spicate lateral. I have discovered a new species in west Kentucky, near to V. scutellata, which I call V. connata, Raf. it has divaricate branches, leaves connate, linear lanceolate and sharp.
Properties. The V. becabunga, V. peregrina, and V. serpyllifolia, are chiefly used with us as weak stimulants, discutient, anti-scrofulous, hepatic, antiscorbutic, and diuretic: while the V. officinalis, which is highly valued in Europe, and the base of the Faltrank or Swiss herb tea, is deemed tonic, vulnerary, astringent, aperient, pectoral, diuretic, &c. All the species appear to me to possess nearly similar properties; the V. officinalis being, however, a little astringent, as the austere taste shows, while the others are nearly insipid, and may even be eaten in sallad, or boiled as greens. All are scentless. In New Jersey they are called Neckweed, because usefully applied to the scrofulous tumors of the neck. Eaten in sallad, they are beneficial in scorbutic complaints, obstructions, and jaundice. Their decoction and tea, which are green, are equally available. The V. officinalis is employed chiefly as a tea or in powder, and in many more complaints, such as disorders of the breast, both catarrhal and ulcerous, cachexy, gravelly complaints, bloody urine, cholics, hypocondria, hoarseness, &c. But the V. becabunga is often substituted with us, and in Europe the V. chamedrys, V. teucrium, &c. They all purify the blood and humors, act as mild stimulants, strengthen the stomach, promote diuresis, and are said to correct the secretions of the liver, so as to remove melancholy or hypochondrical affections.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.