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A dwarf much-branched shrub, 1–3 feet high. Leaves minute, dimorphie. 1, linear, patent, or sub-patent 1/10″–⅛″ long, acute. 2, closely appressed, tumid and coriaceous, adnate with the branch for half their length, broadly ovate, sub-acute, margins faintly ciliated. Flowers in terminal 3–8-flowered heads, sessile; sepals ovate-lanceolate with a strong median nervo ciliated. Corolla tube short, limb ⅙″–⅕″ in diameter, whitish. Capsulo ovate acuminate, longer than the sepals, slightly tumid and notched at the apex.
Hab: South Island–Nelson, Upper Wairau and Amuri 3–4,500 feet, T. Kirk. Source of the Rangitata, 4–6,000 feet, J. F. and J. B. Armstrong.
Our plant presents the appearance of a hybrid between V. salicornioides and V. hectori, and must, I think, be considered of doubtful specific validity. In its robust habit and subacute appressed leaves, it resembles V. hectori; it is more closely allied to V. salicornioides by the inflorescence and capsulo, as well as by the arrangement of the appressed leaves, the upper portion being free and widened out, so that each pair of leaves forms a minute funnel-shaped cup surrounding the branch, and presenting a curious articulated appearance resembling some corallines.
The appressed leaves are not constantly ciliated in any of the forms belonging to this section, and in this respect vary greatly oven on the same branch. The same remark applies to the glandular dotting of the leaves, which is characteristic of V. hectori, V. armstrongii, and V. salicornioides–at least I do not find the leaves truly connato in either plant, although in close contact for the length of their base.
All the Otago specimens of Veronica hectori that I have seen are more robust than those from the Canterbury and Nelson mountains; the length of the capsule varies considerably.
Notwithstanding the doubts I entertain of the claims of our plant to specific honours, I have great pleasure in describing it under the name by which it has become known to horticulturists. As it adapts itself to artificial conditions more readily than any other species belonging to the section (except perhaps V. cupressoides), and is easily recognized by its flabellate branches, it will probably retain its name even if it should ultimately be considered a form of V. salicornioides; but it would have afforded me greater pleasure to have attached the name of its discovered to some form more likely to prove of permanent specific value.
The dimorphism in the foliage of all species characterized by appressed leaves has not received the attention it merits. The spreading leaves are easily produced under cultivation; if the plants are kept in a cool, shaded situation, they will be developed from the tips of branches bearing appressed leaves as well as from all newly formed branches. In V. cupressoides the free leaves are ovate, lobulate or nearly pinnatifid. There can be little doubt that the free leaves are equally characteristic of the seedling state of the plant, although I have been unable to find-them in a wild condition.
Many of the New Zealand species of Veronca comprise a series of forms capable of being recognized by the eye, especially when their minute differences are exaggerated under the luxuriant growth induced by cultivation, but they pass into each other by insensible gradations, and are not capable of rigid definition. In this respect they resemble Rosa canina, Rubus fruticosus, and Salix repens of Northern Europe; and the trivial varieties and sub-varieties of our Veronicas are no more worthy of being elevated to specific rank than the varieties and sub-varieties of these variable European plants.