Verbena bonariensis

12 Fascinating Facts About Verbena (Flower)

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Verbena, also known as vervain, refers to a genus of flowering plants in the verbena family Verbenaceae. With over 250 species, these herbaceous plants are known for their small, brightly colored flowers and have a long history of medicinal and culinary uses around the world.

Let’s take a closer look at this versatile plant and 12 fascinating facts you may not know about verbena:

1. The Name Comes from Ancient Rituals

The word “verbena” has its roots in the Latin word verbenae, which was the name given to certain sacred plants used in ancient Roman sacrificial rites. Verbena was considered a holy plant and was often used to create garlands for altars and temples.

2. Long History of Medicinal Uses

Verbena has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Some of verbena’s most common historical uses include:

  • Treating infections
  • Healing wounds
  • Relieving gastrointestinal issues
  • Curing headaches and fever

Specific species like lemon verbena and blue vervain are still popular natural remedies today.

Desert sand-verbena in bloom
Desert sand-verbena in bloom

3. Unique and Vibrant Flowers

Many verbena species produce unique umbrella-shaped flower clusters that can be quite striking. Flower colors include brilliant reds, blues, purples, whites, and pinks. This makes verbena a beautiful and colorful addition to any garden.

Some verbena flowers are also fragrant, with lemon verbena bearing a particularly sweet and refreshing citrusy scent.

4. Drought and Pest Resistant

Once established, most verbena species are quite resilient plants that require little maintenance. The majority of verbenas tolerate both drought and poor soil very well. Most are also deer and rabbit-resistant.

These qualities make Verbena a great low-maintenance option for gardeners and landscapers alike.

5. Butterfly Magnet

Butterflies and other pollinators love verbena flowers! If you want to attract more butterflies to your garden, verbena is an excellent plant to incorporate.

Some of the most popular verbena species for butterflies include:

  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Verbena canadensis
  • Verbena hastata
  • Verbena rigida

6. Culinary Uses

Some verbena varieties are used as herbal flavorings in foods and drinks. Most commonly, lemon verbena leaves are used to infuse a bright, citrusy flavor into teas, fruit salads, jellies, desserts, and more.

The essential oil from lemon verbena can also be used to make infused honey, vinegar, liqueurs, and sodas.

7. Ancient Species

Verbena has existed as a recognizable genus for over 30 million years!

The verbena family emerged and diversified rapidly alongside bees and butterflies. As these pollinators evolved, they likely contributed to verbena’s genetic diversity and spread.

8. Family Ties

Verbena belongs to the diverse Verbenaceae plant family, which contains over 1,000 species across more than 100 genera.

Some other popular garden plants in the Verbenaceae family include:

  • Lantana
  • Lemon verbena
  • Teak

Despite varied appearances, all Verbenaceae share a square stem as a key identifying trait.

9. Global Reach

Various verbena species have spread far beyond their regions of origin and can now be found wild on nearly every continent except Antarctica. Common vervain alone has naturalized across Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.

Today, wild verbena species grow everywhere from tropical rainforests to deserts to alpine meadows.

10. Weedy Tendencies

While pretty, some verbena species like blue vervain (Verbena hastata) can be aggressive when planted outside of their native range. These verbena can self-sow prolifically and may overtake native plants.

As a result, certain verbena species are considered invasive weeds in areas like Australia and certain U.S. states. Gardeners should check which species may be best suited for their region.

11. Essential Verbena Oil

The essential oil derived from verbena leaves and flowers has a wide array of uses. As an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, verbena oil can be applied topically to treat skin issues or added to soaps and cosmetics.

When diffused, verbena oil may also help ease tension, uplift mood, and promote restful sleep.

12. Easy to Grow

One final perk? Verbena species tend to be very easy to grow! They tolerate a wide range of light and soil conditions. Most verbena can be grown from seeds or stem cuttings placed in water.

With proper spacing and pruning, verbena requires little maintenance to thrive. This makes verbena a great beginner-friendly garden plant.

Lemon verbenaCulinary, tea
Blue vervainMedicinal
Verbena bonariensisButterfly gardens

So in review, key facts about verbena show it is a diverse, resilient, low-maintenance, and multi-use plant genus with a very long history of medicinal and culinary applications. Its bright flowers also make verbena a beautiful garden addition that attracts pollinators. When incorporated thoughtfully, different verbena species can serve many purposes in gardens across a wide span of growing zones and environments.

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