Leonohebe armstrongii (J.B.Armstr.) Heads, Veronica armstrongii Kirk nom. superf., nom. illeg., Hebe armstrongii (J.B.Armstr.) Cockayne et Allan
Vascular – Native
Trees & Shrubs - Dicotyledons
The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.
2n = 84
Current conservation status
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley.
2012 | Threatened – Nationally Endangered | Qualifiers: RF, RR
Previous conservation statuses
2009 | Threatened – Nationally Endangered | Qualifiers: RF
2004 | Threatened – Nationally Endangered
Spreading low shrub bearing narrow short scaly twigs inhabiting the mountain valleys of western Canterbury. Twigs 1.5-2mm wide. Leaves scale-like, pointed, clasping stem, with a hairy margin (lens needed). Flowers white, in groups of 6-8 at tips of twigs.
Endemic. South Island, Canterbury. Initially recorded from the headwaters of the Rangitata River where it now seems to be extinct. Populations are now known from near Castle Hill and in the Pukio Valley. Past records from North West Nelson are based H. ochracea M.B.Ashwin, those from the Clarence, H. hectorii (Hook.f.) Cockayne et Allan, and those from Kurow seem to be the result of accidental inclusion of cultivated specimens with a wild collection of H. annulata (Petrie) Cockayne et Allan.
Apparently confined to strongly leached terraces and moraines. Often growing in association with bog pine (Halocarpus bidwillii) dominated vegetation.
Bushy whipcord hebe up to 2.5 x 1.0 m but usually less. Branches erect or ascending, internodes (0.7-)0.9-1.6 mm, branchlets including leaves 1.5-2(-3) mm wide, leaf bases hairy, fused together, nodal joint distinct or obscure, usually exposed. Leaves persistent on old branchlets, but eventually falling to leave distinctive rings up the stems. Leaves fused, appressed (when fresh) spreading when drying. Leaf not thickened near apex, apex obtuse, apiculate or subapiculate, margin ciliate, lower surface yellowish-green, veins not evident. Inflorescences terminal, unbranched, with (2-)8(-10) flowers. Flowers sessile, calyx 1.5-2 mm, 3-lobed, lobes ovate or oblong, obtuse or emarginate. Corolla tube hairy inside, 1-1.7 x 1.3-1.6 mm, equal to or shorter than calyx, lobes ovate or elliptic to broadly oblong, obtuse, suberect to patent, longer than corolla tube,white or mauve, if mauve fading to white with age. Stamen filaments 2-3 mm, anthers yellow or tinged pink 1.4-1.6 mm. Ovary globose, 0.8-1 mm. Capsules obtuse 2.3 x 1.6 mm.
Closely allied to Veronica annulata and V. salicornioides, and has been confused with V. ochracea. It occurs in the wild with none of these species. It is most likely to be confused with Veronica annulata from which it differs by the more slender branchlets, slightly mucronate (leaves with a fine, sharp leaf extension), and by the foliage being less tightly overlapping and not so appressed to the stem. Other key differences between Veronica armstrongii and V. annulata are that V.annulata is diploid (2n = 42) and V. armstrongii tetraploid (2n = 84) and both species are ecologically separated (see also V. annulata). Can also be confused with bog pine (Halocarpus bidwillii) with which it often grows. Presence of flowers or fruit will give the hebe away, but when they are not present the following features can aid in correct identification. Veronica armstrongii can be distinguished from bog pine by the leaves not smelling when crushed (bog pine contains resins that smell when the leaves are crushed) and by the presence of rings along older branches (bog pine stems have no distinct rings). Bog pine stems are held erect, while those of V. armstrongii are angled, almost whorled, to form a distinct architecture.
October - January
December to November
Easily grown from fresh seed and semi hardwood cuttings. Dislikes humidity. It has been observed that cultivated plants, particularly those grown in the North Island rarely flower. It would seem that a cold winter and very hot, dry summer is the stimulus needed to ensure good flowering.
Seriously threatened through loss of habitat. This species usually grows amongst bog pine (Halocarpus bidwillii) on free-draining leached teraces, a Critically Endangered ecosystem type (Holdaway et al., 2012) that is colloquially known as “Wilderness”. Of the two populations known, one is on Public Conservation Land, where it is actively managed, and the other is on Crown Pastoral Lease where there is ample evidence of recruitment occurring. A third population from the Rangitata catchment is considered extinct.
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’.
armstrongii: Named either after Joseph Francis Armstrong (1820-1902) or his son John Beattie Armstrong (1850-1926).
Where To Buy
Occasionally sold in garden centres. This species was quite commonly cultivated in the 1970s but since then it has been virtually replaced by Veronica (Hebe) ochracea, which is often sold as Hebe armstrongii or H. armstrongii ‘James Stirling’. Some garden centres have now correctly relabelled their stock of that cultivar as H. ochracea ‘James Stirling’. In the North Island Veronica armstrongii will not flower unless it has experienced a very cold winter.
Notes on etymology
Named after Joseph Francis Armstrong, who collected the type specimen.
Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 October 2006 and revised and updated by J.L Gosden 6 June 2022. Description based on Bayly & Kellow (2006).
References and further reading
Bayly, M.J.; Kellow, A.V. Hebes, identification, classification and biology. Wellington, Te Papa Press
Holdaway, R.J.; Wiser, S.K. et al (2012). “Status assessment of New Zealand’s naturally uncommon ecosystems” Conservation Biology 26(4):619-629
Johnson, P.N.; Molloy, B.P.J. (1988) Nigger (now renamed as Pukio) Stream, Esk Valley. Botanical report on wetlands and bog pine scrublands. DSIR Report
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Veronica armstrongii Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/veronica-armstrongii/ (Date website was queried)