The verbena flower – a genus of 250 species within the family of verbenaceae – is an annual and perennial herbaceous plant which can mostly be seen growing from Canada, all the way through to southern Chile. However, they also blossom in regions of Europe and other “Old World” territories. These flowers can grow anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet in height in large clusters, and may be either climbers or bushy in appearance. The blossoms themselves can grow from 2 to 3 inches in width with small, flattened heads that contain up to 5 petals a piece. They are most frequently seen in shades of blue, but may also appear in hues of pink, purple, white, apricot or red – though the latter two usually appear in specific cultivars.
The verbena flower is sometimes referred to as the “Holy Herb” or “Herb of the Cross,” as it was said to be one of the blossoms used to curb the bleeding of Jesus after he was taken down from the cross. This is only one of the many folkloric tales and remedies that cite the verbena flower. In Egypt the blossom was said to have sprouted from the tears of the fertility goddess, Isis; Hippocrates stated that verbena was a great curative for plague and fever, while the court physician of the emperor of Rome considered it to be of great use for pharyngeal tumors. Today, this flower is still considered a highly useful cure to at least 30 different ailments. When used as a poultice, it is thought to be effective in soothing ear aches, arthritis pains and headaches; as a decoction it can be used for anything from cleansing the body to curing gum disease. Verbena flowers are also frequently used when treating feminine ailments; however, many people warn against the use of this flower in any form by pregnant women, as it is considered to be a strong emmenagogue, and may cause preterm labor. As well as being widely used for medicinal purposes, this plant is said to be a very refreshing garnishment, as well as being boiled into teas or crushed into sorbets.
The verbena flower is rife with symbolism. Some give these plants as a request for prayers and well wishes, others give them as a simple expression of love. They are also said to represent healing, creativity and general happiness. Those with a more magical slant might like to receive these flowers as a talisman against evil or physical damage – they may also be used as a sort of aphrodisiac. Others, however, prefer the traditional potted or hanging plant, or a small, simple bouquet.