Monday, June 6, 2011

Common Speedwell, by Andrew Henwood

The park at Brown’s Point, on the Niagara Parkway, is particularly rich in wildflowers; I suspect the hand of man, in the persons of the Niagara Parks Commission, has had quite a bit to do with that. They have been gradually restoring various sections of the Niagara River bank to retrieve as far as possible an original ecology. They have done pretty well.

It’s early days yet – lots of green, not too much colour, but I was pleased to find that the Dame’s Rocket was making a brave show in patches in the woods throughout the area. Also, I was brought up short by a frothy white flower, False Solomon’s Seal, Smilacina racemosa. Against the deep, dark forest background, these two large species make a wonderfully rich display.

But that’s not what I came to talk about today. When I got to Brown’s Point I got off my bike to take in the view across the river for a moment and, looking down, noticed a tiny delicate lilac-coloured flower, making a cushion at the foot of a tall maple tree. Now I should tell you that, despite the seven decades I have spent upon this earth, I am still not familiar with even some of the commonest wildflowers, so I picked a little sprig of this plant to take home and identify. It was Common Speedwell, Veronica officinalis.

The whole plant is very small, only about five inches high, and the flowers tiny, so I had to put my sample under a magnifying lamp to sketch it. Examined this way it really is spectacular. Delicate lilac-coloured flowers with fine purple stripes along the petals decorate long-stalked upright racemes.

So now I must admit to breaking one of the guidelines so gently suggested by Kate – that we should try to illustrate our contributions here with sketches that are done on the spot: in Nature, not from Nature. I could not do that in this case because of the need for magnification. I sketched the plant at twice life size. I apologize for inaccuracies in my drawing; you will find them. I took insufficient time to properly study every component of the flower before going ahead with my painting.


  1. Andrew, it's STUNNING, and thank you for posting. I love knowing what's natural to your area. We have False Solomon's Seal here in Missouri, too, not sure about Speedwell.

    I really don't mind a BIT your using magnification at worked from life, and it shows!

  2. What a beautiful painting! you captured it's delicacy and graceful growth so well!

  3. What a lovely and simply stunning study, Andrew!

  4. Nice post and gorgeous painting, Andrew. I don't think you should apologize, it's still drawn from real life and by magnifying it you learn a lot about the structure and can draw it more accurately.

  5. You did a marvelous job of capturing this little speedwell. I've been admiring speedwells around here lately. So pretty.


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