Veronica americana (alsoVeronica beccabunga ssp. americana)
Also called American Speedwell, Water Pimpernel
Gently semi-reclining in the shade at the marshy edge of the forest, like a delicate multi-headed princess posing in her mud-bath, American Brooklime soaks languid legs with such lassitude that they begin to take root at the supine nodes, anchoring the languid beauty even more firmly into the soggy soil. Displaying her paired stamens like alabaster eyelashes and drawing her colours from the ground, she paints her pretty four-lobed faces blue or violet, lilac or white, securing her prominence among the transition zone grasses and horsetails.
Looking closely at any plant’s many names and parts of names can reveal clues to its history, mythology, morphology and habitat. Veronicas are named for a Christian saint. ‘Americana’ denotes this plant’s status as a North American native. But most interestingly, I learned about a practice called ‘birdliming‘ as apparently ‘Brooklime’ came from this plant’s muddy habitat, which has been known to catch birds who are unfortunate enough to become mired in it. (You, on the other hand, might know about birdlime if you studied Othello: “I am about it, but indeed my invention/Comes from my pate as birdlime does from frieze…”.)
Botanary gives two possible origins of this perennial species’ peppy alternate name, beccabunga, which appears to refer to the European variety.
“Apparently derived from the German Bachbunge (brook+bunch), Another possible derivation is from the Flemish beckpunge (mouth smart), referring to the pungent leaves.”
All Veronicas are edible and high in vitamin C so were recognized early as a treatment for Scurvy. They have also been used for tea and tonics. Young plants can be added to salads, like watercress, but like many greens they become bitter as they age and should be cooked. Somewhat conflictingly, Brooklime was reportedly used by the Navajo Indians as an emetic (source) so I suspect that as in most things, moderation is the key. Gatherers must also be aware that the succulent stems contain the water that they grow in, so care must be taken to ensure that that water is safe.
American Brooklime is one of two Veronicas I have found in the Swan Hills area. The other is Alpine Speedwell.
Other Selected Sources:
Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases
Native American Ethnobotany