Hebe is a genus of plants native to New Zealand, Rapa in French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands, and South America. It includes about 90 species and is the largest plant genus in New Zealand. Apart from H. rapensis (endemic to Rapa), all species occur in New Zealand. This includes the two species, H. salicifolia and H. elliptica, that have distributions extending to South America. The genus is named after the Greek goddess of youth, Hebe.
There are differing classifications for the genus and some botanists now include Hebe, together with the related Australasian genera Chionohebe, Derwentia, Detzneria, Parahebe, Heliohebe and Leonohebe, in the larger genus Veronica (hence its common name shrubby veronica).
Hebe has four perpendicular rows of leaves in opposite decussate pairs. The flowers are perfect, the corolla usually has four slightly unequal lobes, the flower has two stamens and a long style. Flowers are arranged in a spikedinflorescence. Identification of Hebe species is difficult, especially if they are not in flower. The plants range in size from dwarf shrubs to small trees up to 7 metres, and are distributed from coastal to alpine ecosystems. Large-leaved species are normally found on the coast, in lowland scrub and along forest margins. At higher altitudes smaller-leaved species grow, and in alpine areas there are whipcord species with leaves reduced to thick scales.
Hebes are grown in many gardens and public areas; they attract butterflies. Hebes cope with most soil types, and can be propagated easily from both seed and cuttings. Wild Hebehybrids are uncommon; however, there are many cultivated hybrids, such as Hebe × franciscana.
Hebes are valued in gardens in temperate climates as evergreenshrubs with decorative (sometimes variegated) leaves. The flowers, in shades of blue, purple, pink or white, appear throughout summer and autumn. Their ability to withstand salt-laden winds makes them especially suited to coastal areas, for instance the South West of England, where they are often grown as hedges. Prostrate varieties can be used as groundcover. The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:
^Garnock-Jones, Bayly, Lee, Rance (2000). "Hebe arganthera (Scrophulariaceae), a new species from calcareous outcrops in Fiordland, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Botany. 38: 379-388. doi:10.1080/0028825x.2000.9512690.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
^Wheeler, Chris & Valerie (2002). Gardening with hebes. United Kingdom: Guild of Master Craftsmen. p. 160. ISBN1861082916.
^Brickell, Christopher (2010). The RHS encyclopedia of plants & flowers. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 744. ISBN1405354232.