Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Swamp Verbena

Out behind our house we have a detention pond.  Being a detention pond, as opposed to a retention pond, sometimes there's several inches of standing water in it, while other times it's dry.  Lots of people probably think of this as unusable space, but I see it as potential for something I'd love to have in my garden - a meadow!

It doesn't know it yet, but this detention pond is going to be a meadow.
Right now it's not really quite my ideal meadow (or as Mr. Red House calls it, my 'mud-dow', since it's usually muddy there.)  It's mostly full of cattails, ferns, and grasses;  however the large majority of flowering plants in the pond are comprised of the terribly invasive Purple Loosestrife.

the beautiful, but highly invasive Purple Loosestrife
On the upside there are some Goldenrods and Asters in my meadow/muddow, and I've even spotted some Joe-Pye Weed and Common Milkweed growing wild on the banks.  Then last week I saw this:


Swamp Verbena, or Verbena hastata, is a nice, native perennial that likes, well, swampy areas (if you couldn't tell from the name.)  It likes full or partial sun and grows between 2 to 5 feet tall.  The sunnier the site, the taller it gets. It is supposed to be a great substitute for invasive species like Purple Loosestrife since it likes similar conditions. (Hurry up, little Verbena!  So far the Loosestrife is winning!)

Swamp Verbena flowers
Swamp Verbena is also known as Blue Verbena, Blue Vervain, and Simpler's Joy.  Why the nickname 'Simpler's Joy', you wonder?  (I also wondered!)  Apparently back in the day this plant was very easy for Simplers - aka Herbalists - to sell, since people used it as a folk remedy for quite a number of ailments.  (There is a similar Verbena native to Europe with the same nickname that was thought to cure all sorts of stuff, as well as have supernatural properties.)

When the little flowers get old, they fall, making little purple piles on the leaves.
This native plant is great for wildlife.  The flowers attract a number of bees, including Bumblebees and the specialized Verbena bee (Calliopsis subgenus Verbenapis), and birds eat its seeds.  It is also a host for the Verbena Moth and the Common Buckeye butterfly.


I think by itself Swamp Verbena is kind of a funny-looking plant with all its little candlesticks of flowers, but I'll bet it would look great in a mass at the back of a border...


...or en masse in a meadow!


See other native wildflowers over at the site Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday.

18 comments:

  1. That's a great idea for showcasing this plant! I'm going to try to find a spot to do this. If Verbena bonariensis can become popular, one of our natives should be at least as popular as well!

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    1. It does have that wispy thing going, much like the Verbena bonariensis! It would look so pretty in a meadow. My one little plant will likely take awhile to make a dent in my detention pond, though - I think I'll try ordering and wintersowing some seeds for next year to help it out.

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  2. What a sweet little plant! I hope it manages to fight off all the purple loosestrife. A meadow behind your house sounds wonderful!

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    1. Thanks! It will probably be a few years before my meadow idea really starts getting together (right now I'm focusing on the front gardens), but I think it will be so nice when it happens.

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  3. That's a pretty special plant. We have something similar growing along our creek area and it does well in wet years.

    I remember when we lived in the Boston area I thought purple loosestrife was so beautiful en masse until I learned about the invasive part. I'm not sure about Massachusetts but many states have laws against sharing plants or seeds.

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    1. Yes, it's one of the prohibited plants here in Massachusetts. It's so beautiful, but so destructive to native wetlands.

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  4. Thank you for visiting my blog. A New England Flowerbed, and leaving the nice message! How long have you been in Massachusetts? I live S of Boston and inland. Only about a 30 minute drive on a good day. I love the Vervain! It's never caught my eye but now I want some! Of course, it might not like my gardens.....but, I have a swamp in the back.....

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    1. It's so nice to see another local garden blogger! I've only lived in MA for about a year. I moved from NC, so I'm getting used to more Northern gardening :) I'm more west of Boston and a little further out than you. I'm sure the Swamp Verbena would love your swampy area!

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  5. You sound like you have some beautiful native plants ready to fill in your meadow. Nothing will out compete purple loosestrife. I would get out the shovel and start digging it out. I have done it and it works. In the meantime cutoff the flower heads before they set seed and dispose of them in the trash.

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    1. Yeah, we have a lot of it, too. I actually spent several hours the last couple days cutting it out. I don't think I could shovel it all out, but I tried to cut it down next to the ground. Good news is I found several more stands of Swamp Verbena as well as a lot of other wildflowers in the detention pond, so hopefully they'll start filling in!

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  6. Swamp Verbena is really common around here in wet meadows too. I think it is a pretty plant with how vibrant it stands out in the meadows. Purple Loosestrife is blooming also, but not very prolifically. I just mentioned that to a friend on our birding tour yesterday that there really was not much of it. It was not crowing out other plants like before. Honeybees love that plant though. In 1992, insects (beetles) that are known in control of purple loosestrife in Europe have been imported to North America.

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    1. I'm glad they were able to find a control for the purple loosestrife! I have quite a bit of it in my detention pond, but not for too much longer!

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  7. I wish I had a wet area so that I could have a mud-dow filled with natives. I sigh when I see lovely swaths of color such as your swamp verbena. No purple loosestrife here!

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    1. I've always wanted a meadow, so I'm very glad to have one now. Hopefully some of the native wildflowers will really fill it in!

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  8. Indie I love your meadow flowers especially the swamp verbena. My meadow is a favorite garden for me and the critters.

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    1. Thank you! I see a good amount of bees and dragonflies in the meadow. The deer also enjoy it from time to time :)

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  9. Oh my gosh, I love that plant! Interesting how it has so many nicknames. Most people around here seem to call it Blue Vervain. It's one of my all-time favorites. Lucky you! And you've captured some lovely images of it. :)

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    1. Thanks! I've found several more patches of it around the detention pond. So pretty!

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