Veronica spicata L. subsp. spicata
Conservation status: VU
First record: Ray,1660
This Spike grew in the center of the plant erect & the other without flowers round it in a procumbent manner. n.l., Gathered May 28,1754. Joseph Andrews, BM. [probably Cambs record]
Veronica spicata recta minor J.B. Cat.Cant. Hist.846. Martyn,1727,68. --------------------------This rare Breckland species still grows on Newmarket Heath where Ray knew it 'in great plenty ... near the Beacon'. The Beacon was a raised fire–basket and is shown on Bleau's (1648) map perched upon the largest tumulus near Four Mile Hill. This prominent landmark gave its name to the Beacon Course, whose old Starting Post still stands opposite Four Mile Farm.
A little to the south were the enclosures on the heath, (still there according to Chapman's 1768 map), which Ogilby,1729 had described as 'Furzie ground called Hare Park'. This area was laid out as a Warren for James I, and the 'closes' Ray knew were perhaps associated with the management of the warren for hares.
Newmarket Heath is made up from the dry pasture land of a number of adjoining parishes, and was grazed mainly by sheep, or by sheep and rabbits, and latterly it has been kept to a uniform height of 3–4" by regular mowing. The soils appear to be a mosaic of chalky sands and loams over chalk, with patches of heather on the heath, and gorse nearby.
The grazing – mowing regime allowed V. spicata to flower, and after grazing or mowing to put out new short flowering shoots which often set seed; it can also increase in area vegetatively, but then it is easily overlooked, as Evans,1911 observed. For instance, Babington,1860 thought it had become extinct since 1829, West,1898 could not find it in the 1890s, and Walters and others thought it had been lost through ploughing in 1954.
The present site near the Beacon Course is about 1.5 km to the NW from the old Beacon, where it flourished until 1990. A large new area was found lying between the Beacon (July) Course and the Rowley Mile in 1986, and a small patch was discovered between the Devils Ditch and the secondary ditch in 1994.
The records from Horseheath and Littlington, were perhaps garden escapes, (though there was heathland in both parishes before Enclosure) and Evans,1911 stated Smart's record from near the Fleam Dyke had never been confirmed. The only records from the Gogs and the Devils Ditch were those sent to Lightfoot by TG Cullum of Bury St Edmunds; they may well have been errors for another genus. G Crompton.?34 'Littlington. Mrs Tate, 8.1877.' WG Clarke, TSNNS, 11:541. 'Mr Arthur Bennett states, moreover, that he possesses an old specimen from Littlington, near Royston'. Evans (1911)213.?45
'I am well informed also by Mr Cullum Surgeon of Bury, that the Veronica spicata grows also ... upon Gog Magog Hills 3 Miles from Cambridge – .' Lightfoot, c.1790, Ray Syn. ann. OXF. ...and Gogmagog Hills, Smith, Fl.Brit.1800,1:15.On the Wall of St. John's College. Relhan,1802;1820.
'On the wall of St John's College. Relhan.' Bot Guide, (1805). Gogs loc. not in Smith, Engl.Fl.1824,17.Veron spi On the Wall of St. John's College. Henslow ann. l:7.On the Wall of St. John's College. Babington, ann.Relhan.
55 DUNGATE FARM
Growing plentifully among furze bushes on a grassy slope at the 'Valley Farm' near Fleam Dyke adjoining Dungate, Cambs. RB Smart, 1 Aug. 1877, CGE. Amongst Furze bushes on a grassy slope at the Valley Farm nr Fleam Dyke adjoining Dungate, 1877, RB Smart, Bab.ann.
Fulbourne, F Norgate 1890, with a letter to Geldart: 'Yesterday while catching Corydon near Fulbourne Cambs, I saw a small patch of Veronica spicata unmistakeably wild. I enclose 3 spikes for your acceptance and identification. The exact locality must be kept a secret or the plant may be exterminated in 5 minutes with a pocket knife
. Campanula glomerata, Anthyllis vulneraria, Filipendula vulgaris, Asperula cynanchica etc. were abundant there.' NWH.http://www.mnlg.com/gc/species1/v/ver_spi_sub_spi.html