Monday, May 8, 2023

Narrowlweaf Vervain - Verbena simplex


Narrowleaf vervain (Verbena simplex) is a rare plant in Florida, having only been vouchered from Jackson County in the northcentral Panhandle.  It occurs throughout much of the eastern half of the US, however, and is common throughout.  Throughout its range, it is most often found in full sun, dry-mesic to dry conditions, and gravelly to sandy soil. 

This herbaceous perennial dies back to the ground in the winter and reemerges again in spring, eventually reaching a mature height of about 2 feet on a slender erect stem.  It often branches near the base, while above it is unbranched or sparingly branched. The stems are glabrous or short-pubescent; pairs of opposite leaves occur at intervals along these stems. The narrow leaves are 1¼–4" long and less than ½" across; they are narrowly oblanceolate or narrowly elliptic in shape and smooth to coarsely toothed along their margins. There are more teeth toward the tips of the leaves than at their bases. The leaves taper gradually into petiole-like bases. Their upper surfaces are pale to medium green and glabrous or sparsely short-pubescent.

Flowering occurs in late spring to summer at the ends of the stems in spike-like racemes.  There is only one raceme per stem. Only a few flowers bloom at the same time, beginning at the bottom and ending at the top of each raceme. Individual flowers are up to ¼" across, consisting of a lavender to nearly white corolla with 5 spreading lobes, a short tubular calyx with 5 teeth, 4 inserted stamens, and a pistil with a single style. At the base of each flower, there is a lanceolate leafy bract that is about the same length or a little shorter than the calyx. The blooming period occurs for about 2 months. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by nutlets (4 per flower). These nutlets are oblongloid, somewhat flattened, and about 1/8" long.

All vervains are of interest to pollinators, especially bees.  It is the host for the verbena moth.  There are 7 native verbenas in Florida and 5 that are not.  None are currently in propagation by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  

These photos were taken by my friend, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

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