Veronica speciosa


Veronica: Named after Saint Veronica, who gave Jesus her veil to wipe his brow as he carried the cross through Jerusalem, perhaps because the common name of this plant is 'speedwell'. The name Veronica is often believed to derive from the Latin vera 'truth' and iconica 'image', but it is actually derived from the Macedonian name Berenice which means 'bearer of victory'.
speciosa: handsome

Common Name(s)

Purple hebe

Current Conservation Status

2018 - At Risk - Declining

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2009 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered


2012 - RR


Veronica speciosa R.Cunn ex A.Cunn.



Brief Description

Low growing shrub bearing pairs of oval dark green glossy leathery leaves and spikes of magenta flowers inhabiting coastal areas between the Marlborough Sounds and Northland. Leaves to 100mm long by 51mm wide, with fringe of hairs. Leaf bud with small gap at base. Flower spike to 15cm long.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Hebe speciosa (A.Cunn.) Andersen, Hebe speciosa (A.Cunn.) Cockayne et Allan nom. superf., nom. illeg.


Endemic. North and South Islands. In the North Island known only from west coast. Formerly from Scots Point to Urenui. In the South Island from several sites in the Marlborough Sounds. Now only known from outer South Head (Hokianga Harbour), Maunganui Bluff, near Muriwai Beach, at two sites on cliffs west of Aotea Harbour, Mokau and at Titirangi Bay (Marlborough sounds). Recently it has been suggested that only the outer South Head, Maunganui Bluff and Muriwai populations are natural, the others resulting from past deliberate cultivation by Maori.


Coastal cliffs and headlands, in low windswept scrub and flaxland. Rarely under taller trees.


Spreading to somewhat sprawling shrub up to 2 x 3 m. Branches stout, becoming woody at base, spreading to sprawling, rarely erect, often layering on contact with ground. Branchlets stout, pliant, glabrous, yellow-green to green, internodes variable in length, though much longer than stem diameter. Leaf-bud with distinct sinus, glabrescent. Petiole stout, fleshy 5-20 mm. Leaves numerous, coriaceous, fleshy to almost succulent, glabrescent except of lamina margin, 50-200 x 25-80 mm, dark green, green to yellow-green and glossy above, much paler beneath, broadly elliptic to obovate-oblong or oblong, apex obtuse, often retuse, base obtuse; lamina margin distinctly enlarged, red-pigmented, finely pubescent. Inflorescence a simple, lateral, erect raceme 30-80 x 30-40 mm. Peduncle robust, fleshy, glabrous, 30-50 mm long. Flowers rather fleshy, rather crowded on raceme. Pedicels 2-8 mm, exceeding the bracts. Bracts narrowly subulate, ciliolate. Calyx-lobes 2-3 mm long, greenish-yellow to dark green, subacute, ciliolate. Corolla-tube and lobes dark magenta or red, 4-5 x 3-5 mm, exceeding calyx, lobes 5-6 mm long, obtuse, ciliolate. Capsules stout, robust, 6 x 4 mm, brown to dark brown, broadly ovate, apex acute, coriaceous.

Similar Taxa

Unlikely to be confused with other naturally occurring hebe sp. However, its extensive use in horticultural as parental stock for hybridism has resulted in numerous cultivars some of which have been sold, incorrectly, as Veronica speciosa. From the majority of these V. speciosa can be distinguished by its magenta-coloured flowers, and dark green to pale green fleshy leaves which always have a pink-red pigmented, finely hairy leaf margin.


Hebe speciosa may be found in flower throughout the year.

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,Violet / Purple


Fruit is usually present throughout the year.

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from seed, cuttings and layered stem pieces. Cold sensitive and does best in an open, sunny, exposed place, in free draining soil. A spectacular plant ideal for a coastal property. Plants are rarely without flowers at any time of the year.


Threatened by weed invasion of its coastal habitat, browsing animals, and genetic pollution through planting of other hebe sp. and cultivars in the vicinity of wild populations. DNA based research has discovered that populations south of West Auckland (Muriwai) stem from deliberate past Maori plantings of this attractive red-flowered species (Armstrong & de Lange 2005). These plantings resulted from the movement of a limited amount of material from South Head, Hokianga, and as such these southerly populations lack sufficient genetic variability to sexually maintain themselves.

Chromosome No.

2n = 40

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seeds are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Occasionally sold by commercial garden centres. However, most commercial stock is of hybrid origin. Genetically pure and locality sourced plants can be purchased from Oratia Native Plant Nurseries (info@oratianatives.co.nz).


Fact sheet by Peter J. de Lange 1 October 2006. Description based on Bayly & Kellow (2006).

References and further reading

Armstrong, T.T.J.; de Lange, P.J.2005: Conservation genetics of Hebe speciosa (Plantaginaceae) and endangered New Zealand shrub. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 149: 229-239.

Bayly, M.J.; Kellow, A.V. 2006: Hebes, identification, classification and biology. Wellington, Te Papa Press

Bodley, F.A. 1961. Hebe speciosa in the Marlborough Sounds. Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin, 32: 9 

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 22 Feb 2016