Australian Systematic Botany Australian Systematic Botany Society
Taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of plants

Taxonomic revision of Australasian snow hebes (Veronica, Plantaginaceae)

Heidi M. Meudt
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, PO Box 467, Wellington 6140, New Zealand. Email:

Australian Systematic Botany 21(6) 387-421
Submitted: 29 July 2008  Accepted: 17 November 2008   Published: 23 December 2008


The snow hebes, formerly comprising the genus Chionohebe, are here included within Veronica (Plantaginaceae). The five species (including two subspecies) of snow hebes recognised here are cushions or subshrubs that occur exclusively in high-elevation habitats of Australia and the South Island of New Zealand. Species delimitation among the cushion snow hebes is very difficult because of the reduced pulvinate habit, solitary flowers and few gross-morphological characters useful for identification. To address species limits, investigate intraspecific patterns and revise the taxonomy of the snow hebes, morphological analyses were conducted and the results compared with previously published molecular phylogenetic data. Ordination and clustering analyses of morphological data showed some taxonomic structuring; however, species clusters were not widely separated from one another. Morphological and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) data show that the cushion species are clearly distinguished from the subshrub species, V. densifolia (F.Muell.) F.Muell. Among the four cushion species (V. chionohebe Garn.-Jones, V. ciliolata (Hook.f.) Cheeseman, V. pulvinaris (Hook.f.) Cheeseman, V. thomsonii (Buchanan) Cheeseman), the distribution of leaf trichomes is important for species identification, particularly when used in conjunction with ovary vestiture, capsule size, and/or seed size. One new combination V. ciliolata subsp. fiordensis (Ashwin) Meudt is proposed, and V. uniflora Kirk is treated as a naturally occurring hybrid V. × uniflora (V. densifolia × V. thomsonii). Complete synonymies, descriptions, illustrations and range maps are provided for each species, as well as a key to all species and a discussion of putative hybrids.


Thanks go to John Barkla, Phil Garnock-Jones, Bill and Nancy Malcolm, Barry Sneddon, Mei Lin Tay, Mike Thorsen, and especially Michael Bayly, for help with collecting. AK, CANB, CHR, K, HO, OTA, and WELT generously provided specimens on loan for study. Bobbi Angell drew the leaves in Fig. 2, and illustrated all the plants in Fig. 6. The New Zealand Department of Conservation, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries Water and Environment, and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service provided collecting permits for reserves under their control. Thanks go to Patrick Brownsey for support, Carlos Lehnebach for help and discussion regarding phenetic analyses, and Mike Bayly, Phil Garnock-Jones, Patrick Brownsey, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology through the Defining New Zealand’s Land Biota OBI.


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