Blue Vervain

Photo copyright Pat MacGregor

It would be easy to walk right by the humble native Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) without taking notice. But its small blue flowers deserve a bit of your attention. As it prefers a combination of moist soil and sun, look for it along the edges of Reynolds Pond and other sunny, waterside locations or moist meadows. It is sometimes known as Swamp Vervain, which seems to me a more useful name as it suggests where one may find this plant

Slender and tall, with angular red-tinged stems, Blue Vervain branches into a candelabra of blue-violet flowered spikes. Each little flower is only ⅛” wide, and as you can tell from the photo, the buds bloom first at the bottom of the flower spike and work their way up to the top. Bumblebees love Blue Vervain, and they seem comically large when clinging to the tiny flowers.

The genus of plants to which our Blue Vervain is related – the Verbenas – have a long association with divine and supernatural forces. From Ancient Egypt to Plato in Greece, from early Christian folk legends to 19th century magic charms and even appearances in Faulkner and The Vampire Diaries, the Verbenas have maintained a special relationship to our species. The plant’s scientific name – “hastata” – means “sacred plant,” reflecting this family history.

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