Annual or perennial herb 10 - 50 cm tall Leaves: opposite, stalked, 1 - 6.5 cm long, pinnately cut, often three-lobed with lateral lobes smaller than the large central lobe. Flowers: borne in clusters of one to three on elongate terminal spikes 10 - 15 mm across, having bracts longer than the calyx (8 - 15 mm) with a leaf-like lower bract and a lance-linear upper bract. The calyx is stiff-haired and 3 - 4 mm long, and the corolla is bluish to purple with the tube slightly longer than the calyx. Fruit: four linear nutlets, each 2 - 2.5 mm long, the calyx lobes surrounding the nutlets by coming together at the tip. Stems: several, decumbent to ascending, loosely branched, stiff-haired.
Similar species: Verbena bracteata, Verbena simplex, and Verbena stricta have one to three flower spikes per cluster and blue to purple flowers. Verbena simplex and V. stricta differ by having erect stems, bracts shorter than or equal to the calyx, and regularly toothed leaves.
Flowering: late May to late September
Habitat and ecology: Frequent along railroads and roads, in disturbed sandy soil or cracks of streets and sidewalks.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Etymology: Verbena is the Latin name for vervain. Bracteata means "having bracts."
Author: The Morton Arboretum
Kearney and Peebles 1969, Jepson 1993, McDougall 1973
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Annual, biennial, or occasionally perennial herbs; stems 4-angled, leafy, decumbent or trailing, to 50 cm long; usually several stems spreading or arising from the taprooted base; herbage hispid-hirsute. Leaves: Opposite, on margined petioles 5-15 mm long; bades 1-4 cm long and 3-lobed, with 2 narrow lateral lobes and one large terminal lobe, the margins dentate and surfaces hirsute. Flowers: White, blue or purple, sessile and conspicuously bracteate in short dense spikes, these 1-3 per stem and 2-10 cm long in fruit; each flower subtended by a bract 4-8 mm long, twice as long as the calyx; calyx 5-toothed, 3-4 mm long; corollas white to lavender or blue, somewhat bilabiate, the tube slightly longer than the calyx, the limb to 3 mm wide. Fruits: Schizocarp of 4 nutlets, the nutlets to 2 mm long, reticulate above, striate below. Ecology: Found in disturbed areas, pond or lake margins, from 1,000-7,000 ft (305-2134 m); flowers May-September. Distribution: Widely distributed in North America. Notes: This is a common native weed, distinctive with its low sprawling growth form; lobed and toothed opposite leaves with impressed veins; hirsute herbage; and short spikes of small lavender flowers, each flower subtended by a much longer, conspicuous bract. Ethnobotany: A poultice of the plant was applied to centipede bite, and the plant was used in ceremonial chant lotion. Etymology: Verbena is the Latin name for the common European vervain, while bracteata means bearing bracts. Synonyms: None Editor: LCrumbacher 2011, AHazelton 2015
Hirsute annual or perennial, usually with several diffusely branched, prostrate to ascending stems 1-5 dm; lvs 1-6.5 cm, pinnately incised or usually 3- lobed, narrowed to the short margined petiole, the lateral lobes smaller than the large, cuneate-obovate, incisely toothed central one; spikes terminal, sessile, commonly 10-15 mm thick, hispid-hirsute; bracts 8-15 mm, much longer than the cal, the lower often lf-like, the upper lance-linear and entire; cal 3-4 mm, its short lobes connivent over the fr; cor bluish to purple, the tube slightly exserted, the limb 2-3 mm wide; nutlets linear, 2-2.5 mm; 2n=14, 28. Prairies, fields, roadsides, and waste places; Me. to B.C., s. to Fla. and Mex., probably not native in the ne. part of the range. Apr.-Oct. (V. bracteosa) A hybrid with V. stricta is V. ؤeamii Moldenke; one with V. urticifolia is V. ذerriana Moldenke.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
This species is an infrequent plant throughout the state in sandy places, mostly along roadsides and in waste places. Sometimes it is found in sandy pastures, in ballast along railroads, and on the slopes of the banks of the Ohio River, especially at boat landings.