Verbena simplex (Narrow-leaved Vervain)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Verbenaceae (Verbena)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry, rocky soil; prairies, rock outcrops, glades, open woods, roadsides, railroads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] 1 to 3 slender spikes, blooming from the bottom up, elongating with maturity and fruit forming below the open flowers. Flowers are about ¼ inch across, white to lavender, 5 petals nearly equal in size, fused near the base into a short tube, hairy on the outer surface and around the mouth of the tube. Inside the tube are 5 stamens and a 2-parted style. The calyx cupping the flower is slightly shorter than the floral tube, with 5 short teeth and is slightly hairy. At the base of the calyx is a green bract about as long as the calyx.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, 1 to 4 inches long, 1/8 to about ½ inch wide, linear-oblong to spatula-shaped, widest at or above the middle, toothed at least on the upper half, hairless to sparsely hairy, blunt to pointed at the tip, tapered to the base, and stalkless or nearly so. Stems are erect, single or a few from the base, 4-sided, usually sparsely hairy, unbranched or few branched on the upper stem, the branches erect to ascending.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a set of 4 brown, linear-oblong nutlets up to 3mm long, the calyx forming a capsule-like structure.


Narrow-leaved Vervain reaches the northern edge of its range in Minnesota and has only been found in a few locations in dry prairies and rock outcrops. Elsewhere in its range it may also be found in rocky, open woods, glades, gravelly roadsides and along railroads, often where limestone is exposed or near the surface. According to the DNR, it was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984 due to its rarity, but not enough is known about its habitat requirements in the state to determine conservation strategies. It is currently also a Special Concern species in Wisconsin. While the flowering spikes are similar to other Verbena species, the relatively short stature (usually under 2 feet tall), sparsely hairy, narrow and essentially stalkless leaves, 1 to 3 spikes per stem, and tiny flowers distinguish it from the rest.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Louisville Swamp, Scott County, and in a private garden in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Chriss w - maplewood
on: 2017-08-12 15:15:23

Found at Savanna park on frost ave maplewood mn

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-12 16:45:21

Chriss, if what you found is actually Verbena simplex, it is probably not a natural population, but planted. But in all likelihood it is a different species, possibly a white-flowered Verbena stricta.

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