Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the April 14, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

Probably the most conspicuously flowering spring wildflower along roads and trails, growing as a weed in my garden as well as in prairie patches on wooded hillsides and in the grasslands, is the ten-inch high (25cm), tough-stemmed-but-not-quite-woody, perennial herb with much-dissected, hairy leaves shown below:


This is a variable plant occurring over a large distribution area in the central and southern US, into Mexico. Some taxonomists break it into several species but others say that it's just one that's very variable. Most wildflower books treat it the latter way, giving its binomial as GLANDULARIA BIPINNATIFIDA. However, it's impossible to say which common name such books might apply to it, since there are many. Among the most commonly encountered are Mock Vervain, Mock Verbena, Dakota Mock Vervain, Wright's Verbena, Prairie Verbena, Wright's Prairie Verbena and Moradilla. I'm calling it Prairie Verbena.

In the above names the terms "Verbena" and "Vervain" in everyday language are basically interchangeable. Technically they're applicable only to members of the genus Verbena. At one time our Prairie Verbena was assigned to that genus, so that's why so many of its names contain the words Verbena or Vervain, though often qualified as "mock." "Real" Verbenas tend to produce smaller flowers arranged in spike-type flower heads, in contrast to our Prairie Verbena's large flowers in flat-topped clusters.

Medicinally, Vervain species are thought of as relaxants -- of muscles, nerves and spirit. On the Internet I find Prairie Verbena referred to as a "Blessed Verbena" by an herbalist who uses verbena as a "...simple relaxant nervine and antispasmodic, mostly combined with Skullcap." Verbenas mellow out certain people to the point of being a mind-altering drug. You might be interested in looking over a long page of such comments at http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-touchstone-the-blessed-verbena.html.