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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.
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[verification needed] 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.