Blue Vervain

Common Name: Blue Vervain.

Scientific Name: Verbena Hastata.

What to look for?  Multiple blooming, elegant spires of tiny, blue flowers sequencing up a tall stem. The Blue Vervain is a stiff, upright plant. The square hairy stems typically branch above. The upper stems of the Blue Vervain terminate in panicles or inflorescences of erect, slender spikes of tiny, tubular, blue flowers. Flowers on each spike bloom bottom to top and only a few at a time. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by small, oblong, reddish brown nutlets. It has long, lance-shaped, green leaves.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? There are several Blue Vervain growing in the restored prairie at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? The Blue Vervain may grow to four (4) feet tall. The narrowly oval leaves are approximately six (6) inches long and one (1) inch across. Each elongated panicle of flowers from two (2) to as much as four (4) inches long with tiny flowers that are ¼ of an inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The Blue Vervain is native to Illinois and is found in every county. Across the U.S., Blue Vervain is found in most of our states east of the Mississippi River and in Canada. This species is usually found in a variety of river bottom prairies, moist meadows in floodplain woodlands, soggy thickets, borders of rivers and ponds, marshes, ditches, fence rows, and pastures.

When do they bloom? The blooming period is long and occurs from July to September. It blooms from bottom to top of narrow upright panicles. The Blue Vervain is a clump-forming plant and reproduces by seeds and spreads by short rhizomes (horizontal underground stems).

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Many kinds of insects are attracted to the flowers of the Blue Vervain, including a variety of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, and skippers. The seeds are eaten by various songbirds, including the Cardinal, Slate-Colored Junco, Song Sparrow, and others. Animals rarely eat the foliage because it is quite hairy and bitter.

Interesting Facts About the Blue Vervain:

  • Blue Vervain may be mistaken for the related Hoary Vervain, which has larger flowers, stalkless leaves, and has a preference for dryer habitats.

  • In Illinois, Blue Vervain is easy to identify because it is the only vervain with elegant spikes of flowers in this color range.

  • The genus Verbena was the Roman name for altar plants in general. 

  • The species name, Hastata, means spear-shaped.

  • There nearly 200 species in the genus Verbena with many of these species hybridized.

For more information on the Blue Vervain and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!