Veronica beccabunga, Red Hook Imigrant Plant, c. 1840 

European speedwell arrives at Red Hook's Atlantic Dock, takes root and spreads nation wide.

Ships have unintended passengers

As ships travel across the oceans between the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere they take with them unintended passengers. These stowaways include seeds mixed in with ballast.

In order to be properly balanced, cargo ships need weight, and if does not come in the form of goods then sand other heavy material is taken on and this is known as ballast. The US exported more raw goods and products to Europe than it imported for much of its history. This meant that a lot of European land was deposited on the shores of Red Hook, Brooklyn, as ships were arriving here not full of cargo.

Traveling with the ballast and taking root first at the Atlantic Docks and the mouth of the Gowanus was the plant Veronica beccabunga, also known as European speedwell or brooklime. Arriving around the 1840s and documented by botanists in 1879, it flourished in the marshy shoreline that then encompassed much of Red Hook, From here the plant spread across the country, but is no longer common in Red Hook as wet land was filled in with landfill.

Images

Veronica beccabunga

Veronica beccabunga

Source: Christiaan Sepp, illustrator. Jan Kops, author Flora Batava, Volume 6, 1832 (Illustrations of all plants in the Netherlands). Source: www.BioLib.deLink: http://caliban.mpipz.mpg.de/batava/band6/high/IMG_2278.html View File Details Page

The Introduction and Spread of Veronica beccabunga in Eastern North America

Source: Les, Donald H and Ronald Stuckey, "The Introduction and Spread of Veronica beccabunga in Eastern North America,"  Rhodora: Journal of the New England Botanical Club, Vol. 87 No. 849, January 1985 View File Details Page

Item Relations

Item: European ballast used for Red Hook landfill, 1879 is related to This Item

Subjects

Sources:

  • Addison Brown, “Ballast Plants in New York City and its Vicinity.”  Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club
    Vol. 6, No. 59 Torrey Botanical Society, Nov., 1879. pp. 353-360
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/2477448

    Les, Donald H and Ronald Stuckey, "The Introduction and Spread of Veronica beccabunga in Eastern North America,"  Rhodora: Journal of the New England Botanical Club, Vol. 87 No. 849, January 1985

    Image Source:
    Christiaan Sepp, illustrator. Jan Kops, author Flora Batava, Volume 6, 1832 (Illustrations of all plants in the Netherlands). Source: www.BioLib.de
    Link: http://caliban.mpipz.mpg.de/batava/band6/high/IMG_2278.html

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