Veronica alpina

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaScrophulariaceaeVeronicaVeronica alpina


This small montane perennial herb typically occurs in areas of late snow-lie in open, often rocky, places on well-drained but slightly moist ground. It grows on both acidic and calcareous substrates, but most of its sites are subject to some base-enrichment from flushing. From 760 m above Loch Callater (S. Aberdeen) to 1190 m on Aonach Beag (Westerness).



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Arctic-montane element; also in C. Asia and N. America.

© Pete Stroh

Broad Habitats

Montane habitats (acid grassland and heath with montane species)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): -0.7

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 10.9

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1783

Height (cm): 12

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 35

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.29

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Veronica alpina L.

Alpine speedwell

Status: scarce


This is a strictly montane species, growing mainly where snow lies late, in open, often rocky, places with little competition from taller plants. The high corries of the central Scottish Highlands, from the Ben Nevis range to the Cairngorms and the Lochnagar massif, are its chief stronghold. Many localities are on acidic rocks such as granite, but most habitats receive some base enrichment by flushing, and there are occurrences on calcareous substrates. The ground is well-drained but often slightly moist. 

V. alpina often grows in the bryophyte carpets of late snow areas, with vascular plant associates such as Alchemilla alpina, Carex lachenalii, Deschampsia cespitosa, Epilobium anagallidifolium, Ranunculus acris, Saxifraga stellaris, Sibbaldia procumbens, Thalictrum alpinum, Veronica serpyllifolia subsp. humifusa and Viola palustris. On more basic soils, V. alpina grows in alpine dwarf herb swards, with Carex capillaris, Cerastium alpinum, Festuca rubra, Persicaria vivipara, Saxifraga aizoides, S. oppositifolia, Selaginella selaginoides, Silene acaulis and Thymus polytrichus. The altitudinal range is from 760 metres above Loch Callater to 1035 metres in Glen Coe; it has also been recorded from 1160 metres on Ben Lawers.

It is a perennial which flowers quite freely in many of its localities, but there is no information about its propagation in the wild.

Many habitats are accessible to red deer and sheep, so V. alpina must tolerate light grazing, but it may be restricted indirectly where grazing has promoted increase of coarser grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa. Most colonies from which there are only pre-1970 records are probably still extant.

This is an arctic-alpine species of both the Old and New Worlds, widespread in northern regions and the high mountains of central Europe and the Rockies.


D. A. Ratcliffe

Atlas text references

Atlas (230b)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Rauschert S, Weinert E
1978.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 2. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.