Overview

Brief Summary

Also known as simpler's joy and blue verbena, blue vervain is a native perennial plant found throughout New England and the United States. The entire plant grows 2 to 6 feet high, with multiple, small, blue-violet flowers emerging from spikes about five inches long. The tubular blossoms have five lobes that open 1/8 inch wide. The plant has a tall, square-edged stem with stalks that terminate into the spikes. The stalks may be green or reddish, and may be covered in fine white hairs. Narrow and rough serrated leaves, about 6 inches long and 1 inch across, grow in an opposite pattern up the stems, attached to the stalk by short petioles. The root system of the plant is fibrous. Blue vervain can be easily distinguished from other types of vervain because of its distinctive color.

Blue vervain is a perennial plant that grows each year from the root stock of the year before. It is also a biennial, so it does not begin to bloom until the second year of its life. The flowers bloom for about a month and a half from July to September. Four nutlets are produced from each flower. Blue vervain attracts a lot of wildlife: many different species of insects and bees, particularly bumblebees, collect nectar and pollen; cotton-tailed rabbits eat the young plants; and many birds, such as sparrows and cardinals, eat the seeds.

Prefers moist habitats with full or partial sunlight. Because of this it is found in damp thickets, shores, roadsides, pastures, and other places near ponds and streams. This plant easily adapts to areas from degraded wetlands to high quality habitats.

Very common plants in moist areas, some states even consider it a weed. Still, blue vervain is thought to be a medicinal cure-all in many cultures. The Latin name, verbena hastate, translates to "sacred plant."

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Comprehensive Description

Comments

The flowers are often a pretty blue or violet, but they are quite small. Blue Vervain is easy to identify because it is the only vervain with elegant spikes of flowers in this color range.
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Description

This is a slender, but erect, native perennial plant that is up to 5' tall, branching occasionally in the upper half. The green or red stems are four-angled, sometimes with fine white hairs. The opposite leaves are up to 6" long and 1" across. They are lanceolate, conspicuously veined, and have short petioles. The margins are coarsely serrated with variably sized teeth. The upper stems terminate in a panicle of flowering spikes. These erect spikes are up to 5" long, and densely crowded all around with numerous reddish blue or violet flowers. Each flower is a little less than ¼" across, and has 5 lobes flaring outward from a slender corolla tube. There is no scent. Four nutlets are produced per flower – they are reddish brown, oblong, and triangular convex. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer, and lasts about 1½ months. The root system has fibrous roots and short rhizomes.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Blue Vervain occurs in every county of Illinois (see Distribution Map); it is fairly common. Habitats include riverbottom prairies, moist meadows near floodplain woodlands, soggy thickets, borders of rivers and ponds, marshes, ditches, fence rows, and pastures. This plant adapts readily to degraded wetlands and other disturbed areas, but it can be found in higher quality habitats as well.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Blue Vervain occurs in every county of Illinois (see Distribution Map); it is fairly common. Habitats include riverbottom prairies, moist meadows near floodplain woodlands, soggy thickets, borders of rivers and ponds, marshes, ditches, fence rows, and pastures. This plant adapts readily to degraded wetlands and other disturbed areas, but it can be found in higher quality habitats as well.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers attract many kinds of long-tongued and short-tongued bees, including Epeoline Cuckoo bees, Eucerine Miner bees, Halictid bees, and the oligolege Calliopsis verbenae (Verbena Bee). These bees seek primarily nectar, although some species collect pollen. Other flower visitors include Ammophila spp. (Thread-Waisted wasps), Bee flies, Thick-Headed flies, small butterflies and skippers, and Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus (Goldenrod Soldier Beetle). The caterpillars of Crambodes talidiformis (Verbena Moth) feed on the foliage. Most mammalian herbivores avoid eating this plant because of the bitter leaves – an exception is the Cottontail Rabbit, which may eat the foliage of young plants to a limited extent. Also, various songbirds occasionally eat the seeds, including the Cardinal, Swamp Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and Slate-Colored Junco (during the winter). Experimental studies have shown that these seeds can pass undamaged through the digestive tracts of cattle, therefore they are probably distributed to some extent by these seed-eating birds.
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Blue Vervain in Illinois

Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain)
(Bees usually suck nectar, but sometimes collect pollen as indicated below; other insects usually suck nectar, although some of the Syrphid flies may feed on pollen; observations are from Robertson, Reed, Graenicher, Krombein et al., Conger, and Swengel & Swengel as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn fq (Rb, Re); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn (Rb), Bombus bimaculatus (Re), Bombus griseocallis (Re), Bombus impatiens sn cp (Rb), Bombus pensylvanica sn fq (Rb), Bombus vagans (Re), Psithyrus citrinus sn (Rb); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp. (Re), Ceratina dupla dupla sn (Rb, Cng); Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Epeolus bifasciatus sn fq (Rb), Triepeolus concavus sn (Rb), Triepeolus cressonii cressonii sn (Rb), Triepeolus helianthi helianthi sn (Rb), Triepeolus lunatus concolor sn (Rb), Triepeolus lunatus lunatus sn (Rb), Triepeolus pectoralis sn (Rb), Triepeolus remigatus sn (Rb), Triepeolus simplex sn (Rb); Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes agilis sn (Rb), Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn (Rb), Melissodes coloradensis sn (Rb), Melissodes comptoides sn (Rb), Melissodes dentiventris sn (Rb), Melissodes nivea sn (Rb), Melissodes rustica sn fq (Rb), Melissodes trinodis sn fq (Rb, Re), Svastra atripes atripes sn (Rb); Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys octodentata sn fq (Rb), Coelioxys sayi sn fq (Rb); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis (Re), Megachile latimanus sn (Rb, Cng)

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn (Rb, Re, Cng), Augochlorella striata sn fq (Rb, Re), Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn (Rb), Halictus confusus sn fq (Rb, Re), Halictus ligatus sn (Rb, Re), Halictus rubicunda sn (Rb), Lasioglossum coriaceus sn (Rb), Lasioglossum pruinosus sn (Rb), Lasioglossum zephyrus sn (Rb); Andrenidae (Panurginae): Calliopsis andreniformis sn cp (Rb, Kr), Calliopsis nebraskensis (Kr), Calliopsis verbenae sn cp fq olg (Rb)

Wasps
Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Bembix nubilipennis (Rb), Microbembex monodonta (Cng); Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila nigricans (Rb), Ammophila pictipennis (Rb), Ammophila procera (Rb), Eremnophila aureonotata fq icp (Rb), Prionyx atrata (Rb), Sphex ichneumonea (Rb); Scoliidae: Scolia bicincta (Rb); Vespidae (Eumeninae): Euodynerus foraminatus (Cng); Vespidae (Vespinae): Dolichovespula maculata (Rb)

Flies
Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua (Cng), Helophilus latifrons (Cng), Sphaerophoria contiqua (Re, Cng), Syritta pipiens (Cng), Tropidia quadrata (Cng); Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa decora (Gr), Exoprosopa fasciata (Rb, Gr) fq, Exoprosopa fascipennis (Rb), Rhynchanthrax parvicornis (Gr), Sparnopolius confusus (Rb), Systoechus vulgaris (Rb, Gr) fq, Systropus macer fq (Rb), Tmemophlebia cyanoceps (Cng), Villa alternata (Gr); Conopidae: Physocephala texana fq (Rb), Physocephala tibialis (Rb), Stylogaster biannulata fq (Rb); Tachinidae: Archytas analis (Rb); Sarcophagidae: Ravinia derelicta (Rb); Calliphoridae: Lucilia sp. (Re)

Butterflies
Pieridae: Colias philodice (Rb), Pontia protodice (Rb); Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis (Cng, Sw)

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Ancyloxypha numitor (Rb), Epargyreus clarus (Rb, Cng), Pholisora catullus (Rb)

Moths
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis (Rb); Noctuidae: Spragueia onagrus (Cng)

Beetles
Cantharidae: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus fq (Rb)

Plant Bugs
Miridae: Adelphocoris rapidus (Rb)

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General Ecology

Urban Ecology

This species is included in the New York Metropolitan Flora Project of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Click here more information, including a distribution map for the metro New York area http://nymf.bbg.org/species/1557.

This species is grown by the Greenbelt Native Plants Center on Staten Island, NY. This facility is part of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and its purpose is to support and promote the use of native species in planting projects. For more information, go to:http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/greenbelt-native-plant-center.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Verbena hastata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Verbena hastata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sunlight and moist conditions. The soil should consist of a fertile loam or wet muck. This plant tolerates standing water, if it is temporary. This is a good plant to locate near a small river or pond in a sunny location.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

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Research Use

Some research on V. hastata seems to reflect its potential medicinal use. Often used in traditional medicine, V. hastata has been investigate for potential anti-ulcer and antimicrobial properties (Akuodor et al. 2012).

V. hastata is also featured in wetland ecological studies, such as Dittmar and Neely 1999 and Kao-Kniffin et al. 2010.

There is a report of this species hybridizing with other members of the Verbena genus (Poindexter 1962).

Akuodor GC, JL Akpan, MN Ezeunala, GA Ajoku, AD Essien, AU Megwas, DO Okoroafor, TC Iwuanyanwu, and UA Osunkwo. 2012. Evaluation of anti-ulcer and antimicrobial effects of Verbena hastata leaf extract. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 6(11):778-782.

Dittmar LA and RK Neely. 1999. Wetland seed bank respose to sedimentation varying in loading rate and texture. Wetlands. 19(2):341-351.

Kao-Kniffin J, DS Freyre, and TC Balser. 2010. Methane dynamics across wetland plant species. Aquatic Botany. 93(2):107-113.

Poindexter, JD. 1962. Natural hybridization among Verbena stricta, V. hastata, and V. urticifolia in Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 65(4):409-419.

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Wikipedia

Verbena hastata

"Blue Vervain" redirects here. This name is also used for Common Vervain (V. officinalis).

Verbena hastata (blue vervain or swamp verbena) is a flowering plant in the vervain family, Verbenaceae. It is a herb with opposite, simple leaves which have double-serate margins, borne on stiffly erect, branching square stems. The flowers appear in summer and are purple. This is a common plant that occurs across North America. They are hardy and drought resistant.[1]

This species is a member of the diploid North American vervains which have 14 chromosomes altogether. Hybridization seems to have played some role in its evolution, presumably between some member of a group including the White Vervain (V. urticifolia), V. lasiostachys or V. menthifolia, and V. orcuttiana or a related species. In the recent evolutionary past, there has been an incident of chloroplast transfer of one of the latter or the Swamp Verbena to the mock vervain Glandularia bipinnatifida which is a close relative of the genus Verbena. It is unknown by what mechanism this happened, but it is suspected that hybridization is not responsible.[2]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Blue Vervain Wildflowers". 
  2. ^ Yuan & Olmstead (2008)

References[edit]

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