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Verbena lasiostachys (ver-BEE-na las-ee-oh-STAY-kis) is a deciduous perennial herb that is native to a variety of plant communities throughout California and Oregon.

Western Vervain (Verbena lasiostachys)

This species is commonly known as Western Vervain, Common Verbena, Western Verbena, or simply Vervain.  The species name, lasiostachys, is taken from the Greek lasio, meaning woolly, and stachys, meaning an ear of grain, or a spike.

We first noticed this plant back in May, growing out in the orchard in soil that was disturbed last year when we re-cut the road leading out to the gardens.  We didn’t think much of it then, as it was blooming alongside various other spring blooming plants, including some hedge nettle at the time.  However, with a second period of bloom in late summer, this plant has caught our attention again.

The leaves of Verbena lasiostachys are coarsely toothed, larger toward the base of the stem, becoming smaller along the stem toward the tip.

Leaves of Verbena lasiostachys are coarsely toothed

The flowers of this species are borne on spikes between 10-25 cm long.  Each inflorescence has fused petals forming a tube with five flared lobes, with flowers opening from the base of the stem, toward the tip.  Flower spikes are upright in young plants, but may arch downward in taller specimens.

Verbena lasiostachys

Here, Verbena lasiostachys grows to approximately 2 feet in height without any supplemental irrigation, keeping its aggressively spreading nature in check.  It’s not fussy about soil type, thriving in loam, clay, and sandy soil.

Western Vervain, although somewhat weedy in habit, has a few qualities we like very much.  It’s a useful plant as its deep roots, and ability to thrive in a range of soil types, make it a good plant choice for erosion control on our slopes.

Verbena lasiostachys is somewhat weedy in habit

The deer seem to mostly ignore it, which here is a huge benefit for anything growing outside our deer fences.

Perhaps the most important quality of this plant though, is that it is just now beginning to bloom for the second time this year, when almost all of our other native wildflowers are deep in summer dormancy.  As such, it is proving to be a very valuable late-season habitat plant.   This species is used by many native butterflies, and hoards of honeybees.

Numerous honeybees are found on our native verbena, when little else is blooming

Verbena lasiostachys

The bees seem grateful for even the smallest of blooms

The Costanoan’s are known to have used infusions of Verbena lasiostachys both as a gastrointestinal aid for “fever of the stomach”, and as a treatment for typhoid fever. [1]

Western Vervain is not a formal plant in the least, and not suited to small, orderly gardens.  It is quite weedy in habit, and mature plants become more prostrate than upright in appearance, and it spreads readily both from underground runners, and seed, and can be particularly aggressive in the presence of supplemental watering during the summer months.

Verbena lasiostachys

Although our specimens are growing wild here at Curbstone Valley, Verbena lasiostachys is available from a number of native plant nurseries throughout California.  If you choose to plant it, your native pollinators will no doubt appreciate it, but be sure to give it plenty of room to roam.

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[1] Daniel E. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotanical Database