White Vervain, White Verbena
Synonyms of Verbena urticifolia (8) (Updated on 1-17-23 from Plants of the World Online): Verbena curtisii Moldenke, Verbena diffusa Poir., Verbena incarnata Raf., Verbena urticifolia var. incarnata (Raf.) Moldenke, Verbena urticifolia f. incarnata (Raf.) Moldenke, Verbena urticifolia var. leiocarpa L.M.Perry & Fernald, Verbena urticifolia var. simplex Farw., Verbena urticifolia f. simplex (Farw.) Moldenke
Verbena urticifolia L. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Verbena. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
As of 1-17-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 150 species in the Verbena genus. It is a member of the plant family Verbenaceae with 31 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
The above distribution map for Verbena urticifolia is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native. The map on the USDA Plants Database is similar but doesn’t include the state of Arizona.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
I first photographed and identified the Verbena urticifolia on the farm on August 4 in 2013. I became more interested in wildflower ID, so I took more photos of a large plant on July 29 in 2019. There are a few colonies here and there on the farm, mainly in the back pasture.
Verbena urticifolia is considered a short-lived perennial, biennial, or self-seeding annual. It is a native species and is found from the central part of North America eastward although its range may be limited in some states and provinces. It is an easy species to identify by its open inflorescences and long flower spikes that go in every direction. The white flowers are very small it is hard to get good close-ups of.
Here on the farm, the biggest colony is at the edge of a wooded area behind a pond. I normally see them hit-and-miss at the edges of trees that grow in fence rows, but there are always a few grown in a low area next to the pond in the front pasture (in full sun). They like full sun to partially shady areas and their soil preference is loam, sandy loam, or clay loam. They do like damp soil but they seem to do fine over a dry spell.
Verbena urticifolia has strong erect 4-angled (square) stems, either single or multiple from the base, that branch out from the mid-point.
I took the above photo and the next six of a Verbena urticifolia in the front pasture close to the pond…
The most common identifying feature of this species is the broad panicles of tiny flowers. Not only does the main terminate in flower spikes up to 2’ long, but the many side branches have their own panicles although smaller in size.
The flowers… The tubular white corollas are 5-lobed and are subtended by a green calyx with 5 pointed lobes, which are also subtended by another set of bracts. The flowers are barely 1/8” across, lobes are somewhat unequal. Depending on how you look at the flower, some websites say the upper lip is notched while others say it is the bottom.
Two of the lobes are supposedly slightly smaller. One site says the 5-lobes are “weakly bilabiate” (which means two-lipped), with one notched upper lobe and three bottom lobes. Hmmm… What about the fifth lobe? The calyx and corolla are moderately pubescent, while the inside is bearded. There are also 4 stamens that are in pairs of unequal length, very short stamens, greenish anthers, and a glabrous style with a lateral appendage… Well, that’s what Missouri Plants says… Oh yeah, they say the stigma is capitate. Umm… The stigma is the pollen-receptive surface of a carpel…. It seems one word leads to another.
All I know for sure is the flowers are very tiny and hard to get close-ups of. Especially with the wind blowing. It is impossible with one or two magnifying glasses in the front of the lens, holding the flower stem still while zooming in and out trying to get the camera to focus, and pushing the button to get a photo. I know, practice makes perfect… Well, the flowering period is from June through October, and since the flowers don’t open all at once, I have time to practice.
The mature ovaries produce a 4-chambered capsule that contains 4 nutlets… The nutlets are somewhere between 1.5-2 mm in length. How did they get so big?
Somehow, the nectar and pollen attract long and short-tongued bees and flies. small butterflies, and wasps that cross-pollinate the flowers. I would imagine with some difficulty… Other insects and larvae (caterpillars) feed on the leaves, while some birds eat the seed. The leaves are somewhat bitter so they are rarely eaten by rabbits, deer, or livestock.
Stems are moderately hairy (pubescent) with straight to curved, spreading pustular-based hairs that are shorter toward the top. Plants grow to around 3’ to 6’ tall depending on conditions.
The leaves grow in an opposite manner along the stems, are usually broadly lanceolate to ovate, to 6” wide and 2 1/2” long, , taper to a sharp tip, the base being rounded with a 1 1/2” long (or so) petiole (leaf stem). The margins are coarsely toothed, sometimes in doubles.
The upper surface of the leaves is dark green and light green on the underside. Both leaf surfaces can be either glabrous (smooth) or moderately pubescent (hairy). Leaves are heavily veined, most noticed on the underside.
The above and below photo are from plants in the south hayfield.
Hmmm… I’m not sure why I took the above photo…
While I was looking for early spring wildflowers on April 27 in 2022, I thought I would take a few photos of what the White Vervain looks like when they are small.
I will continue taking photos of the Verbena urticifolia because I upload my observations on iNaturalist. Plus, I need the challenge of trying to get close-ups of the flowers.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the family farm and in other areas. The farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street, and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at email@example.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF MISSOURI (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-WEED ID GUIDE
ARKANSAS NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
PFAF (PLANTS FOR A FUTURE)
LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
MARYLAND BIODIVERSITY PROJECT
NATIVE PLANTS OF THE CAROLINAS & GEORGIA
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂