Verbena bracteata (Big-bract Verbena)

Plant Info
Also known as: Prostrate Vervain, Bracted Vervain, Creeping Vervain
Family:Verbenaceae (Verbena)
Life cycle:annual, biennial, perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; dry; roadsides, fields
Bloom season:May - October
Plant height:1 to 20 inch creeper
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: spike Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] A whorl of stalkless flowers around the tip of a thick spike at the end of branching stems. Flowers are 1/8-inch across with 5 light blue to purple to pink petals fused at the base forming a slender tube. The petal lobes are unequal in size, the 2 upper slightly smaller than the lower 3. The mouth of the tube and into the throat is white; hidden inside the tube are 4 stamens and a short style. The calyx has 5 sharply pointed lobes and is nearly as long as the floral tube. At the base of each flower is a narrow leaf-like bract, lance-linear and up to ¾ inch long. Bracts and calyx are densely covered in stiff hairs. The spikes enlongate to 6 inches or more, with flowers blooming at the tip and fruit forming below.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 3 inches long, 1 inch wide, hairy, and typically deeply lobed in 3 parts, the lobes coarsely toothed and may be further divided with shallower lobes. Stems are branched and fanning in all directions, covered with long spreading hairs, square, and sprawling but typically rising at the tip of a flower spike (decumbent).

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing fruit] The hairy calyx persists and encapsulates 4 tiny nutlets.


Big-bract Verbena is a weedy species often found at the edges of roads, sidewalks, parking lots, lawns and other disturbed sandy or gravelly soils, fanning out in a mat up to nearly 2 feet in diameter but rarely rising more than 2 or 3 inches off the ground.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mary - Apple Valley
on: 2014-07-26 13:08:50

Finally able to id this plant! Growing along the driveway alley and down over the top of the wall next to apartment building in Minneapolis. 15 West 22nd. We are weeding out the strip but will leave it there. Pretty blue flowers. Another much larger erect plant there with leathery wedge shaped leaves that at base, clasp the stems. Much branched and flower buds are now beginning to appear at the tips of the stems. Will keep looking for answer on that one.

Posted by: Ann - Central Todd County
on: 2016-07-27 17:17:06

I found these in a little used farm driveway today. I don't remember seeing them here before, but then again, I wasn't looking!

Posted by: Sara Holger - Frontenac State Park
on: 2020-08-22 09:27:25

Observed these flowers growing along the entry drive to Frontenac State Park in Goodhue County.

Posted by: Ellen S. - Hennepin County suburbs
on: 2020-10-01 18:20:33

I'm glad to learn these are native. We have them on the edges of our driveway, and now I don't have to worry about digging them or feel bad about letting them grow.

Posted by: Mary Clifford - Hastings, MN
on: 2021-06-22 14:48:29

Growing at the end of the driveway after several weeks without mowing due to lack of rain. Thought my annuals had spilled seeds. Nice to know they are native. Will try to move to a dry bed as the yard crew will likely hit them now that rain has returned.

Posted by: Adrienne - East River Flats Park area, Minneapolis
on: 2021-08-04 23:55:44

There's a lot of this growing in East River Flats Park- in the fields down by the Mississippi river on the east bank of the U of M campus, and near the U of M Boathouse. I didn't know there are more species of native verbenas than blue vervain and hoary vervain in MN!

Posted by: Brett W. - Elk River, MN
on: 2021-08-15 15:29:08

Found a few growing way out amongst the gravelly rockbed of the Mississippi River at Babcock Memorial Park.

Posted by: Harvey D Tjader - Bemidji
on: 2021-08-16 13:06:05

Big-bract verbena came up in the driveway after having new gravel delivered and spread.

Posted by: Ruth - Edina
on: 2021-08-20 14:25:42

This is growing and blooming along sidewalk in Edina right now.

Posted by: Victoria Rios - Saint Paul
on: 2023-08-10 19:30:31

Where can I find seeds? I want to use it for a lawn alternative. It's growing in spots around Indian Mounds Park and is so pretty!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-08-13 08:02:46

Victoria, Minnesota Wildflowers does not track who sells what but I don't recall ever seeing this for sale anywhere. I suggest locating a seed exchange group (Seed Savers, Como Seed Library, etc) and see if anyone has it or knows who does.

Posted by: Jennifer Willms - St. Paul
on: 2024-01-08 17:25:39

I was also happy to learn that this is native. At first glance, I dismissed it as a weed on a street corner, but I noticed a small flower. Upon closer examination, I appreciated the beauty of the plant and took note of all the pollinators on it. I gathered some seeds, and I am going to winter sow them this weekend. I couldn't find a germination code for this specific plant, but my guess is cold moist stratification for at least 30 days. I think it would be great along the edges of a rustic brick patio in my back yard.

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