AskDefine | Define verbena

Dictionary Definition

verbena n : any of numerous tropical or subtropical American plants of the genus Verbena grown for their showy spikes of variously colored flowers [syn: vervain]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A genus of herbaceous plants of which several species are extensively cultivated for the great beauty of their flowers; vervain.


a genus of herbaceous plants
  • French: verveine
  • Hungarian: verbéna
  • Italian: verbena


  • 1918 : Linda pulled a piece of verbena and crumpled it, and held her hands to her mother. - Katherine Mansfield, Prelude (Selected Stories, Oxford World's Classics paperback 2002, 116)


Derived terms

Extensive Definition

This article is about the plant of genus Verbena. For other plants called "verbenas", see below. For other meanings, see Verbena (disambiguation).
"Vervain" redirects here. For other uses, see Vervain (disambiguation).
Verbena (verbenas or vervains) is a genus of annual and perennial herbaceous or semi-woody flowering plants with about 250 species in the family Verbenaceae. The majority of the species are native to the New World from Canada south to southern Chile, but some are also native in the Old World, mainly in Europe including Common Vervain (V. officinalis) and V. supina. Several species in this genus are of natural hybrid origin.
The leaves are usually opposite, simple, and in many species hairy, often densely so. The flowers are small, with five petals, and borne in dense spikes. Typically some shade of blue, they may also be white, pink, or purple, especially in cultivars.

Ecology and human uses

Some species, hybrids and cultivars of vervain are used as ornamental plants. They are valued in butterfly gardening in suitable climates, attracting Lepidoptera such as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), Chocolate Albatross (Appias lyncida), or the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), and also hummingbirds. Especially Common Vervain (V. officinalis) is also grown as a honey plant.
For some vervain pathogens, see List of verbena diseases. Cultivated vervains are sometimes parasitized by Sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and spread this pest to other crops.
Vervain has longstanding use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as a herbal tea. Nicholas Culpeper's 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses. Among others effects, it may act as a galactagogue and possibly sex steroid analogue. It is one of the original 38 Bach flower remedies, prescribed against "over-enthusiasm". The plants are also sometimes used as abortifacient.
Compounds that have been identified in vervains include β-myrcene, verbenone, caffeic acid (and derivatives) and indeterminate glycosides.
The essential oil of various species - mainly Common Vervain - is traded as Spanish Verbena oil. Considered inferior to oil of Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) in perfumery, it is of some commercial importance for herbalism and it seems to be a promising source of medical compounds. Verveine, the famous green liqueur from the region of Le Puy-en-Velay (France) is flavored with vervains.

Vervains in human culture

Verbena has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called "tears of Isis" in Ancient Egypt, and later on "Juno's tears". In Ancient Greece, it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that Common Vervain (V. officinalis) was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after his removal from the cross. It was consequently called "Holy Herb" or (e.g. in Wales) "Devil's bane".
Other legends held it that vervain protects people from vampires, by mixing it in a herbal tea, keeping it near you, or using oil extracted from it in a bath. Vervain flowers are engraved on cimaruta, Italian anti-stregheria charms. In the 1870 The History and Practice of Magic by "Paul Christian" (Jean Baptiste Pitois) it is employed in the preparation of a mandragora charm.
While Common Vervain is not native to North America, it has been introduced there and for example the Pawnee have adopted it as an entheogen enhancer and in oneiromancy, much like Calea zacatechichi is used in Mexico.
The generic name is the Ancient Roman term for sacrificial herbs considered very powerful. Pliny the Elder describes verbena presented on Jupiter altars; it is not entirely clear if this referred to a Verbena rather than the general term for prime sacrificial herbs.
The common names of Common Vervain in many Central and Eastern Europes languages often associate it with iron.
In hanakotoba (花言葉, Japanese flower-language), vervains are called bijozakura (美女桜) and are a symbol of cooperativeness. In Western culture, they are the birthday flower of July 29.
An indeterminate vervain is among the plants on the eighth panel of the New World Tapestry ("Expedition to Cape Cod"), embroidered in 1602/03.

Externals Links

See also


verbena in Arabic: لويزة (نبات)
verbena in Bulgarian: Върбинка
verbena in Catalan: Berbena
verbena in Danish: Verbena
verbena in German: Verbenen
verbena in Spanish: Verbena (botánica)
verbena in French: Verveine
verbena in Italian: Verbena (genere)
verbena in Hungarian: Vasfű
verbena in Japanese: バーベナ
verbena in Polish: Werbena
verbena in Portuguese: Verbena
verbena in Romanian: Verbena
verbena in Russian: Вербена
verbena in Vietnamese: Chi cỏ Roi ngựa
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1