Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata, occurs broadly in piedmont and mountain areas of Virginia and in a few counties in the coastal plain. Growing 2-6 feet tall, clusters of many pencil-like spikes of small 5-petaled flowers grow at the ends of the branches. The flowers bloom a few at a time, advancing toward the pointed tip. The stem is grooved and 4-sided. This species can be found in moist thickets, meadows and roadsides, growing best in well-drained soil. The Narrow-leaved Vervain, Verbena simplex, is not as showy as Blue Vervain because it grows only about half as tall and its spikes of flowers occur singly (or in 3s) at the tip of the stem or branches. As its name implies, this species also has narrower leaves. It occurs more commonly in the coastal plain than does the Blue Vervain.
White Vervain, Verbena urticifolia is common in nearly every county in Virginia. Its spikes of small white flowers are very slender; the stems are usually hairy, with egg-shaped and coarsely toothed leaves.
Blue, White, and Narrow-leaved Vervains are tall and/or erect species. In contrast, Verbena canadensis (Glandularia canadensis) has a prostrate and spreading growth form. It has been found growing wild in only 3 counties in Virginia: James City, Surry, and Virginia Beach. In nature, the color of its flowers typically ranges from pink to purple, but red and white-flowered variants are available in garden centers. These showy flowers are borne in wide, rounded clusters.
All verbenas are heat and drought tolerant, attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Non-native verbenas such as V. bonariensis can be invasive.
Native Americans and 19th century physicians brewed a leaf tea from V. hastata as a “female tonic”; Cotton Mather recommended a decoction with honey as a remedy for consumption.
Source/photo: Helen Hamilton, past president John Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society; www.claytonvnps.org
Posted by Kathy Van Mullekom; email@example.com
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