Veronica praecox, Breckland Speedwell
A full account of ten years of monitoring Veronica praecox at its Standlake site can be found at https://anhso.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Fritillary/fritr-veronica.pdf.
Veronica praecox is a native of southern Europe. Though found in western Europe it is not native there. Thus neither is it native in Britain; it is in fact a neophyte, known to have been cultivated in 1775. It occurs mainly in Breckland on several sites but had one other British site near Standlake in Oxfordshire. It does best on free-draining sandy soils and needs regular disturbance.
The last plants of this species were seen at Standlake in 2008 but in 1975 there were several hundred. We think that the site has become unsuitable for this annual though it may well still exist in substantial numbers in the seed bank.
As well as Veronica praecox there is a long list of unusual annuals and other plants which thrive on the slope. These include Cerastium semidecandrum, Little Mouse-ear and Stellaria pallida, Lesser Chickweed.
It is clear from the management regimes in the Norfolk and Suffolk sites that annual autumn ploughing provides the best management regime for V. praecox. Otherwise some kind of disturbance is essential and this is what is now lacking at Standlake where the slope is mostly covered with perennials, leaving little bare ground.