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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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National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) at http://www.nbii.gov

Supplier: Bob Corrigan

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