Speedwell and Veronica



The name “speedwell” has appealed to me from our first acquaintance but I haven’t known much about it before. I now know that the attractive blue and yellow flower on Kungshatt lawn is Speedwell, also known as Veronica (one of a multitude from Veronica abyssinica to zygantha).

The name Speedwell reputedly derives from the flower rapidly losing its petals once plucked (not so beautiful…). Scrophulariaceae, the species Veronica was traditionally attributed to, is ugly (now changed as the attribution was found to be grossly polyphyletic, in lay language appearing similar but not having a common ancestor). Nor is it easy to be thrilled by its rhizomatous reproduction (sprouts from the root) or that it is Draadereprijs in the Netherlands and Faden-Ehrenpris in Germany. But I still like the name and flower and my passage across the lawn will be a tad closer to the divine.

Veronica has more of a history, extending back to the woman who mopped the fallen Christ’s face on the road to Golgotha, she being named in the apocryphal gospel of Nicolaus, single source of not a few biblical names (Berenike in Greek). The naming is disputed as Veronica could be interpreted as Vero ikon – the true icon. Apocryphal or not, the cloth with the image of Christ is claimed as one of the Vatican’s most treasured possessions. A popular story, there are Catholic churches dedicated to Veronica (in the US, among other places) although I haven’t come across any Protestant churches so named. There is also a St Veronica of Milan in the 1400s. I haven’t found out how the name became entwined with the flower, although it does bear the nickname “Angel’s eyes”.

The symbol of St Veronica (the biblical, also patron saint of photographers and laundry workers) is the veil bearing the face of Christ and the crown of thorns. There are references to her feast day being 12 July and her being venerated on Shrove Tuesday (movable date). I need to check the difference between a Saint’s feast day and the day of veneration.



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