Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Verbena litoralis
(blue vervain)



Verbena litoralis (blue vervain)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Verbena litoralis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • blue vervain
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Verbena litoralis is a short-lived herbaceous plant, native to many of the tropical areas of Central and South America. Although the species has spread to other countries from its native environment, and is som...

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Verbena litoralis flowers
CaptionVerbena litoralis flowers
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Verbena litoralis flowers
FlowersVerbena litoralis flowers©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Verbena litoralis  plant among grasses
CaptionVerbena litoralis plant among grasses
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Verbena litoralis  plant among grasses
HabitVerbena litoralis plant among grasses©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Verbena litoralis  leaf arrangement
TitleLeaf arrangement
CaptionVerbena litoralis leaf arrangement
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Verbena litoralis  leaf arrangement
Leaf arrangementVerbena litoralis leaf arrangement©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Verbena litoralis Kunth

Preferred Common Name

  • blue vervain

Other Scientific Names

  • Verbena affinis M. Martens & Galeotti
  • Verbena approximata Briq.
  • Verbena gentryi Moldenke
  • Verbena longifolia M. Martens & Galeotti

International Common Names

  • English: blue vervain; Brazilian vervain; common verbena; seashore vervain
  • Spanish: verbena

Local Common Names

  • USA/Hawaii: ha‘uowi; oi; owi

Summary of Invasiveness

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Verbena litoralis is a short-lived herbaceous plant, native to many of the tropical areas of Central and South America. Although the species has spread to other countries from its native environment, and is sometimes regarded as an invasive threat (in Australia and some states of the USA), it often seems to be restricted to disturbed habitats like roadsides, stream banks, tracks and waste places. Information on its effects on other plant species is not well reported, nor is there any evidence to suggest it has any serious impacts on specific environments or ecosystems.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Lamiales
  •                         Family: Verbenaceae
  •                             Genus: Verbena
  •                                 Species: Verbena litoralis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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According to Webb et al. (1988), in New Zealand V. litoralis has often been mistaken for V. officinalis, but the toothed rather than lobed leaves and longer flowering period distinguish it. V. litoralis has also sometimes been erroneously called V. hastata in New Zealand.


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Webb et al., (1988) describes V. litoralis as a:

“Short-lived perennial; stems square, somewhat scabrid, to c. 1 m tall. Leaves mostly petiolate, the uppermost sometimes subsessile. Lamina of lower leaves to c. 10 × 2.5 cm, lanceolate to oblong or rhomboid, with ± strigulose hairs scarcely swollen at base above and below, usually coarsely or deeply serrate; veins not impressed above; base attenuate; apex acute. Inflorescence loosely paniculate; spikes to c. 5 cm long at maximum flowering, hairy, elongating to c. 15 cm long at fruiting, slender; flowers rather dense but soon becoming distant. Bracts ± = calyx at flowering, lanceolate, keeled, acuminate, ciliate. Calyx 2-3 mm long, glandular-hairy; teeth green, acute. Corolla tube > calyx, rather sparingly hairy outside; limb 2-3 mm diam., bluish or mauve, drying a similar colour. Nutlets c. 1.5 mm long, oblong, faintly ribbed dorsally, brown, finely white-papillate on flattened ventral surface”. 

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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Native to Mexico and mainly the tropical areas of Central and South America, widely naturalized elsewhere (Wagner et al., 1999; Ugarte et al., 2011).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


JapanPresentIntroducedMito and Uesugi, 2004


MauritiusPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
NamibiaPresentRandall, 2012
RéunionPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
South AfricaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedMaroyi, 2012

North America

MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2012
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2012
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Costa RicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
El SalvadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
NicaraguaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
PanamaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
BoliviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-ParanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-Rio Grande do SulPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-Santa CatarinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
ChilePresentUgarte et al., 2011; USDA-ARS, 2012
-Easter IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
ColombiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
EcuadorPresentUSDA-ARS, 2012; IABIN, 2013
ParaguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
PeruPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
UruguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
VenezuelaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012


ItalyPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
PortugalPresentIntroducedAlmeida and Freitas, 2006
SpainPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
UKPresentIntroducedClement and Foster, 1994


AustraliaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia, 2012
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia, 2012
-VictoriaPresent Invasive Atlas of Living Australia, 2012
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia, 2012
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Webb et al., 1988
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2012

History of Introduction and Spread

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First recorded from New South Wales in 1902, from Queensland in 1909 (The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2012) and from New Zealand in 1911 (Webb et al., 1988). The species was probably introduced to these areas (and others) by accident as a contaminant in ship ballast or in packing material. In Australia, the genus has been used as an ornamental in the past but it's popularity has decreased in recent years.


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Chile USA 1849 Ugarte et al. (2011)
New South Wales 1902 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2012)
New Zealand 1911 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes Webb et al. (1988)
Queensland 1909 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2012)
Western Australia 1984 Yes The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2012)

Risk of Introduction

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With improved seed inspection regulations and the limited use of ship ballast in modern times, the risk of accidental introduction may now have been largely mitigated. The species is not known to be sold currently in Australia as an ornamental but the genus was very popular in the past with many hundreds of cultivars. Therefore, although its popularity has decreased over the years, trade in seed has been a significant pathway and should not be discounted as a potential source of introduction. The plant may also still be used for its medicinal properties.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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No mention found of any particular species affected by its presence.

Biology and Ecology

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2n= 28, 56 (Motooka et al., 2003). No hybridization has been reported.

Reproductive Biology

The colourful flowers are attractive to bees and no doubt other insects, although no information is available on specific floral visitors.

V. litoralis fruit a small nut, which is unlikely to be dispersed long distance by the wind (Webb et al., 1988).

Physiology and Phenology

It is a short-lived perennial plant (Webb et al., 1988).


None mentioned in the literature.

Environmental Requirements

In Chile, its native environment, this species typically grows at low altitude in valleys and coastal areas but can be found between 500 and 2000 m in the coastal mountain areas. It prefers dry, sunny, arid areas and can withstand long periods of drought and has a USDA Hardiness Zone 9 rating. The plant does not tolerate snow, but can tolerate occasional freezing spells of about - 5° C (the typical morning frost of central Chile)(Belov, 2012).


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Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) -5


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration310number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall100800mm; lower/upper limits

Notes on Natural Enemies

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No known enemies are reported within the current literature.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

The small nuts produced by V. litoralis areunlikely to be moved far by the wind. Whether they can float or not is unknown.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Biotic transmission is unlikely, but is still unknown.

Accidental Introduction

It is most likely that seeds were accidentally introduced to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa via ship ballast, seed samples of other species or in hay or straw or other vegetable material. In Australia, however, it could also have been easily introduced as seed for sowing as an ornamental. Material was grown in botanic gardens and the genus was extremely popular in the nineteenth century with hundreds of cultivars; many of which would not have been formally identified.

Intentional Introduction

The plant is not considered ornamental so it is unlikely to have been intentionally introduced to new areas. However, it does have some claimed medicinal uses (Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, 2012).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Forage Yes Yes
Hitchhiker Yes Yes
Seed tradePossible formerly carried as a contaminant in seed samples Yes

Impact Summary

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Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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In Hawaii, the species is reported to displace forage pastures (Motooka et al., 2003), which may cause economic problems.

Environmental Impact

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Motooka et al. (2003) noted that native species in disturbed forests in Hawaii have been displaced by V. litoralis. However, no further impacts have been documented.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Reduced amenity values
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - shading


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V. litoralis is or has been used for antifertility, bruises, coughs, malaria, purgative, tumours and as a panacea (Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, 2012).

Goats and possibly other animals or livestock will not browse on the plant (Motooka et al., 2003).

Uses List

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Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Generally V. litoralis is similar to some other species of Verbena.

Prevention and Control

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Normal phytosanitory importation standards should prevent or reduce the chances of further introductions elsewhere.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Plants could easily be pulled, dug out, or mown.

Chemical Control

V. literolis is sensitive to foliar application of 2,4-D. (Motooka et al., 2003). Presumably the species can be controlled, like other species of Verbena, with common herbicides like glyphosate.


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Allan Herbarium, 2000. Nga Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plant Names Database. New Zealand: Landcare Research.

Almeida JD; Freitas H, 2006. Exotic naturalized flora of continental Portugal - A reassessment. Botanica Complutensis, 30:117-130 pp.

Atlas of Living Australia, 2012. Atlas of Living Australia. Canberra ACT, Australia: GBIF.

Belov M, 2012. Chileflora. Talca, Chile: Michail Belov.

Clement EJ; Foster MC, 1994. Alien plants of the British Isles. London, UK: Botanical Society of the British Isles, 603 pp.

Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, 2012. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Beltsville, USA: USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network.

IABIN, 2013. Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network.

ITIS, 2013. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution/NMNH.

Jepson Flora Project, 2012. Jepson eFlora. Berkeley, California, USA: University of California.

Maroyi A, 2012. The casual, naturalised and invasive alien flora of Zimbabwe based on herbarium and literature records. Koedoe - African Protected Area Conservation and Science, 54(1):6.

Mito T; Uesugi T, 2004. Invasive alien species in Japan: the status quo and the new regulation for prevention of their adverse effects. Global Environmental Research, 8(2):171-191.

Motooka P; Castro L; Nelson D; Nagai G; Ching L, 2003. Weeds of Hawaii's pastures and natural areas: an identification and management guide. Honolulu, HI, USA: College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 184 pp.

PIER, 2012. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii.

PlantNET, 2015. New South Wales flora online. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: National Herbarium of New South Wales.

Randall RP, 2012. A global compendium of weeds, 2. Western Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp.

The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2012. Australia's Virtual Herbarium., Australia: The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.

Ugarte E; Lira F; Fuentes N; Klotz S, 2011. Vascular alien flora, Chile. Check List, 7(3):365-382 pp.

USDA-ARS, 2012. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

USDA-NRCS, 2012. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center.

Wagner WI; Herbst DR; Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, revised edition. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press.

Webb CJ; Sykes WR; Garnock-Jones PJ, 1988. Flora of New Zealand Volume IV. Naturalised Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: DSIR Botany Division, 1365 pp.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
USDA-ARS, 2012. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).


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31/10/12 Original text by:

Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.

Distribution Maps

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