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A deciduous shrub or subshrub up to 12 in. high; young shoots purplish, slender, often with a line of down extending upwards from the axil of each leaf. Leaves ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate, pointed, tapered at the base, coarsely saw-toothed, 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. wide, dark green above, paler below, glabrous; stalk 1⁄12 to 1⁄4 in. long. Racemes slender, erect, 3 to 9 in. high, produced in late summer from leaf-axils at the upper part of the shoots. Flowers white with rosy-purple lines, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. wide; flower-stalks downy, the individual ones about 1⁄4 in. long, very slender.
Native of New Zealand. This is a variable species and specimens with stems 2 ft long and leaves 4 in. long are included under it. The form described above and cultivated at Kew is the same as Forster’s type on which he based the name in 1786. On some wild plants the leaves are linear-lanceolate, six or seven times as long as wide. Such plants were given specific rank by Bentham as V. lanceolata, but they are part of the variation of this species. In the plants that the younger Hooker named V. diffusa the habit was decumbent and diffuse, the racemes glandular and the leaves ovate and acute, but Miss Ashwin has pointed out that this shape of leaf is not always associated with the other characters of Hooker’s species (Fl. N.Z., Vol. 1 (1961), p. 879).
At the present time P. catarractae appears to be mainly represented in cultivation by a hardy form resembling the one described above from a Kew plant, but usually offered as “Hebe lyallii”. There is also in commerce a form listed by Messrs Ingwersen as Hebe catarractae ‘Of Gardens’, which differs from wild plants in having flowers of a deep purplish blue.
Parahebe catarractae flowers from late summer into early autumn.
No subdivisions of this variable species are recognised in Allan’s Flora of New Zealand. But four subspecies are distinguished by R. J. Garnock-Jones in New Zealand Journal of Botany, Vol. 18, pp. 285-298 (1980). According to this treatment the typical subspecies (subsp. cattaractae) has leaves which are whitish beneath and the hairs on the pedicels arranged in a single row, in contrast to the other three, in which the leaves are green beneath and the pedicels either hairy all round or almost glabrous. The subspecies diffusa is prostrate with leaves less than 1 in. long; and subsp. lanceolata erect, with leaves more than 1 in. long. In both these the young stems and petioles are brown or reddish, but in the author’s new subsp. martinii the stems are purplish black, contrasting with the green petioles.
Veronica lyallii Hook, f.
Hebe lyallii (Hook. f.) Allan