Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Verbena litoralis Kunth

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flowers. © Australian Plant Image Index (APII). Photographer: M. Fagg.
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO

Kunth, C.S. in Humboldt, F.W.H.A. von, Bonpland, A.J.A. & Kunth, C.S. (1818), Nova Genera et Species Plantarum 2(7): 276, t. 137. Type: F.W.H.A. Humboldt & A.J.A.Bonpland s.n, "in salsis maritimis Oceani Pacifici prope Truxillo, Santa et Lima", Peru (P Lectotype).

Common name

Common Vervain; Vervain; European Vervain; Common Verbena; Holywort


Usually flowers and fruits as a shrub about 1-2 m tall.


Leaf blades about 4-12 x 1-4 cm, sessile or on petioles about 0.1-0.4 cm long. Lateral veins about 3 or 4 on each side of the midrib, depressed on the upper surface. Leaf blades hispid, hairy on both the upper and lower surfaces. Twigs square in transverse section and longitudinally ribbed.


Flowers borne in numerous long narrow terminal spikes about 5-20 cm long. Flowers small, about 1-1.5 mm diam. Spikes usually arranged in loose cymose inflorescences. Calyx about 3 mm long, branched. Corolla tube 3-4 mm long, densely hairy in the throat, basal part of the corolla tube white or cream. Corolla lobes about 0.6 mm long, mauve, tube pink or reddish towards the apex, Pairs of stamens attached at different levels in the corolla tube. Anthers less than 0.5 mm diam., filaments very short, about 0.2 mm long. Style about 1 mm long. Stigma +/- globular but with a lateral spur.


Fruits about 1.5-2 x 0.7-1.2 mm, surface +/- smooth. Up to four nutlets produced from each flower. Nutlets about 1 mm long. Seeds about 1.2 x 0.6 mm. Embryo about 1 mm long, cotyledons about as wide as the radicle.


Cotyledons +/- ovate, about 2-5 x 2-4 mm, apex rounded but ending in a short blunt gland-like mucro, base truncate. Petioles about 2-3 mm long. First pair of leaves opposite, margin finely toothed, stem hairy. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade sessile or almost sessile (petiole about 2-3 mm long), leaf blade margin serrate, both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf blade and the stem clothed in white erect hairs. Seed germination time 18 to 239 days.

Distribution and Ecology

An introduced species originally from southern Europe now naturalised in NEQ, CEQ and most parts of eastern Australia as far south as Tasmania. Altitudinal range in NEQ from near sea level to 900 m. Usually grows as a weed of agricultural land but also found along roads and in disturbed areas in rain forest.

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