Veronica besseya: A Charming Alpine Flower
Veronica besseya, also known as Alpine coral drops or Alpine kitten tails, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the family Plantaginaceae. It is native to Western North America, where it grows in the alpine tundra of the Rocky Mountains. It is a compact, clump-forming perennial with woolly, greyish-green leaves and dense spikes of purple-blue flowers that bloom in summer.
Veronica besseya was first discovered by Charles Parry in 1861, in Colorado. It was originally named Synthyris alpina by Asa Gray, but later renamed Besseya alpina by Axel Rydberg. However, in 2004, it was proposed that all Besseya species actually belong to the genus Veronica, the speedwells.
Veronica besseya is a hardy plant that can tolerate cold and dry conditions. It prefers moist but well-drained, acidic or neutral soil and full sun or partial shade. It can be grown in rock gardens, gravel gardens, patio containers or flower borders. It is attractive to bees and butterflies and has no serious pests or diseases.
Veronica besseya is a beautiful and rare alpine flower that deserves more attention and appreciation. It is a symbol of resilience and grace in harsh environments.
How to Grow and Care for Veronica besseya
Veronica besseya is not a difficult plant to grow, but it does require some special care to thrive. Here are some tips on how to grow and care for this alpine flower:
- Choose a well-drained site with full sun or partial shade. Avoid wet or soggy soil, as this can cause root rot.
- Plant Veronica besseya in spring or autumn, using a gritty compost or a mixture of soil and sand. Space the plants about 15 cm apart and water them well after planting.
- Apply a thin layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. You can use gravel, bark chips or pine needles as mulch.
- Fertilize Veronica besseya once a year in spring, using a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Too much nitrogen can cause excessive leaf growth and reduce flowering.
- Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooms and prevent self-seeding. You can also cut back the plants after flowering to maintain their shape and size.
- Divide Veronica besseya every 3 to 4 years in spring or autumn, to rejuvenate the plants and increase their number. Lift the clumps carefully and separate them into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Replant the divisions in fresh soil and water them well.
Interesting Facts about Veronica besseya
Veronica besseya is not only a lovely plant, but also a fascinating one. Here are some interesting facts about this alpine flower:
- The genus name Veronica comes from the Latin word for speedwell, which was a common name for many plants in this group. The species name besseya honors Edward Lee Greene’s wife, Bessey Greene, who was also a botanist.
- Veronica besseya is pollinated by bees and butterflies, which are attracted by its nectar and color. The flowers have two lips: the upper lip is smaller and has two lobes, while the lower lip is larger and has three lobes. The lower lip also has a white spot at the base, which acts as a guide for the pollinators.
- Veronica besseya is adapted to survive in harsh alpine conditions. It has woolly leaves that help reduce water loss and protect it from frost. It also has a taproot that can penetrate deep into the soil and access water and nutrients.
- Veronica besseya is a rare plant that is threatened by habitat loss, overgrazing, climate change and invasive species. It is listed as endangered in New Mexico and sensitive in Colorado. It is also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).