There are so many weedy introduced verbena species invading our native grasslands, that it can come as a surprise to discover that two of the species are native. These wispy plants look quite different from all the weedy invaders. They don’t make a big splash, with their pale lavender-coloured flowers but they are rather charming all the same.
They consist of a clump of leaves on the ground, around the drought-hardy perennial taproot. In summer they put up waist-high flowering stems.
The plants are perennials, whose leaves die back each winter and reappear in spring. You can see that I have cut back last season's flowering stems from this plant, with its fresh new spring leaves.
For a good show of flowers, it would be best to group a number of plants together.
This is one of the very best local nectar plants for attracting butterflies – well worth a place in a garden for this reason alone.
TELLING ONE FROM THE OTHER.
For those who want to distinguish between the two, the first clue is that the flowerhead of V. africana feels a bit sticky, while that of V. gaudichaudii does not. Next, is that the basal leaves of V. africana are often deeply dissected, while those of V. gaudichaudii are always merely toothed. A further clue is revealed if you examine a flower calyx with a magnifying glass. The pointy little green bracts on the outside of the calyx are at least as long as the calyx of V. africana, but are noticeably shorter than the calyx in V. gaudichaudii.
Verbena gaudichaudi’s delightful species name comes from a French botanist, Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré who sailed around the world with Louis de Freycinet, visiting Australia in 1818. Verbena africana is an Australian native, despite its name, but is also native in Africa.