Hoary Vervain

Common Name: Hoary Vervain (or Hoary Verbena).

Scientific Name: Verbena Stricta.

What to look for?  A single spire atop a tall stem filling from bottom up with purple flowers. The tall stems of the Hoary Vervain are light green to dull reddish purple and covered with long white hairs. The upper stems terminate in long, hairy floral spikes. These spikes are densely covered with lavender flowers. The whitish green leaves are oval and coarsely serrated along the margins. Hoary Vervain tends to grow in clumps.

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

How big are they? The Hoary Vervain may grow to three (3) or four (4) feet tall. The oval leaves are approximately four (4) inches long and three (3) inches across. The floral spikes range from one (1) to as much as eight (8) inches long with tiny flowers that are ¼ of an inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The Hoary Vervain is native to Illinois and is found in every county. Across the U.S., Hoary Vervain is found in most of our states and in eastern Canada. This species is usually found in a variety of prairies, limestone glades, overgrazed pastures, abandoned fields, the grassy shoulders of highway overpasses, and areas along railroads. Hoary Vervain favors low grassy areas with a history of disturbance, particularly from grazing.

When do they bloom? The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer and lasts nearly two (2) months. It blooms from bottom to top of narrow upright panicles. The Hoary Vervain is a clump-forming plant naturalizes by self-seeding.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Many kinds of insects are attracted to the flowers, including a variety of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Several grasshoppers feed on the Hoary Vervain. The seeds are eaten by various songbirds, including the Cardinal, Slate-Colored Junco, Field Sparrow, and others. It is possible that these birds help to distribute the seeds to new areas. Animals rarely eat the foliage because it is quite hairy and bitter.

Interesting Facts About Hoary Vervain:

  • It might be confused with Blue Vervain (Verbena Hastata), which has smaller flowers, stalked leaves that are longer and proportionately much narrower.

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

  • The species name, stricta, refers the erect or rigid stem.

For more information on the Hoary 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!