Four to six feet high. Leaves. - Opposite, somewhat lance-shaped, the lower often lobed and sometimes halberd-shaped at base. Flowers. - Purple, small, in slender erect spikes. Calyx. - Five-toothed. Corolla. - Tubular, somewhat unequally five-cleft. Stamens. - Two, in pairs. Pistil. - One.
Along the roadsides in midsummer we notice these slender purple spikes, the appearance of which would be vastly improved if the tiny blossoms would only consent to open simultaneously.
In earlier times the vervain was beset with classic associations. It was claimed as the plant which Virgil and other poets mention as being used for altar-decorations and for the garlands of sacrificial beasts. It was believed to be the herba sacra of the ancients, until it was understood that the generic title Verbena was a word which was applied to branches of any description which were used in religious rites. It certainly seems, however, to have been applied to some especial plant in the time of Pliny, for he writes that no plant was more honored among the Romans than the sacred Verbena. In more modern times as well the vervain has been regarded as an "herb of grace," and has been gathered with various ceremonies and with the invocation of a blessing, which began as follows:
Hallowed be thou, Vervain, As thou growest on the ground, For in the Mount of Calvary There thou was first found.
Plate XCII. Blue Vervain. - V, hastata
It was then supposed to be endued with especial virtue, and was worn on the person to avert disaster.
The time honored title of Simpler's joy arose from the remuneration which this popular plant brought to the "Simplers" - as the gatherers of medicinal herbs were entitled.