Flowers: growing in numerous, corymbed, terminal spikes. Calyx: tubular; five-toothed. Corolla: tubular; salver-shaped; with five lobes. Stamens:
four; growing in pairs. Pistil; one. Leaves: opposite; on petioles; lanceolate pointed at both ends; serrated; rough; conspicuously veined. Stem: sometimes six feet high; leafy; angled; rough.
Rearing amid the summer foliage its tall steeple-like spikes of intense colour, the blue vervain strikes joy to many a heart beside that of the ancient simpler, who, of shaggy appearance, armed with an old tin kettle and a great bag, bent his back and thrust his two-edged knife into the soil that he might bear the plant away and haggle with his friend, the chemist, for its exchange in filthy lucre. For the herb doctors had no more faithful ally than the blue vervain.
Our plant is not identical with the "sacred herb" of the Greeks and Romans; a sprig of which was sent as an ambassador on treaties of peace, and used to decorate altars at sacrifices and incantations. In those days the name verbena was rather generally applied to almost any branch that had a part in religious rites. The plant has, however, been credited with averting disaster and signifies enchantment in the language of flowers.
V. urticifolia, white vervain, is also common along the roadsides. It resembles the simpler's joy, although its flowers are fewer and less attractive.
Both of these vervains are country cousins of the large-flowered, many-coloured verbenas of the gardens.