Verbena hastata is another native wildflower that sometimes has a reputation as an undesirable weed because it is typically left uneaten in overgrazed pastures. However, it attracts both native bees and butterflies, and makes a lovely tall accent in the perennial flower garden or rain garden.
Blue Vervain is not terribly picky (it has a C-value of 4 classing it as not quite a weedy pioneer species) except in its preference for moisture. In Floyd, hilltops may not work well, nor dry understory conditions, but many average sunny garden sites should do fine. It lives as a short-lived perennial, self-sowing freely. Under ideal conditions it can form perennial stands by spreading through rhizomes. However, it does not compete well against very aggressive meadow plants and so can benefit from cultivation now that invasive species and mowing have changed the dynamics in many wild meadow places in Floyd County. Verbena hastata grows 3′ to 6′ tall (the flower spikes are included in the overall height and stand dramatically above the foliage in branching candelabra like clusters bearing vertical flower spikes with tiny individual blue-purple flowers which bloom from the bottom to the top a few at a time from summer to early fall.
Verbena hastata is recognized of Special Value to Native Bees by the Xerces Society and is actually a host plant for a few species of moth and butterfly, including the lovely Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) which really deserves a better name given how pretty it is!
From Wildflower.org: “In ancient times the plant was thought to be a cure-all among medicinal plants and the genus name is Latin for “sacred plant.” Also from Wildflower.org: “This plant has been used for many years as a medicinal herb for treating convalescents and people suffering from depression, headaches, jaundice, cramps, coughs and fevers. Externally, it has been applied to wounds, ulcers and acne. Swamp vervain can, however, interere with blood pressure medication and hormone therapy, and large doses cause vomiting and diarrhea. (Kershaw)”
Native in the United States in all states except Alaska and Hawaii. In Canada, it is native in the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Other Floyd County native Verbena: V. urticifolia.
Height: 4-5 ft, Spacing guide: 18"-24". Bloom Color: Purple. Bloom Time: Late Summer/Early Fall (Jul-Sep). Light: Full sun to part shade. Moisture: Medium to wet (mesic to hydric) conditions. Soils: Moist soils.
USDA Zones: 3-8. National Wetland Status Indicator:FACW. C-Value:4. Successional Role: Pioneer, post-disturbance, Subclimax, stable.
Virginia Habitat: "Moist to wet fields and meadows, fens, calcareous spring marshes, riverbanks, and seasonally exposed rock, sand, or gravel bars and shores. Frequent in the mountains; infrequent in the Piedmont; rare in the Coastal Plain." (The Flora, 2023). Virginia Natural Communities: None specified
*Of Special Value to Native Bees, Nectar for Native Nectar-Feeders, Larval Host for Butterflies & Moths, Bird Food
Wildlife Supported: Bumblebees, native bees enjoy the nectar. Larval host to the Common Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia), Verbena Moth (Crambodes talidiformis), Verbena Bud Moth (Endothenia hebesana) (Wikipedia, 2023). Seeds are a staple for many small mammals and birds.
From seed Seed Germination: C30 - 30 days cold moist stratification required