verbena, common name for some members of the Verbenaceae, a family of herbs, shrubs, and trees (often climbing forms) of warmer regions of the world. Well-known wild and cultivated members of the family include species of the shrubby Lantana and of Verbena; many species of both are native to the United States. Many cultivated verbenas (herbs or shrubs) have fragrant blossoms and leaves that are sometimes used as condiments or for distillation of oils or for tea, as are those of the similar lemon verbena ( Lippia citriodora ) of tropical America and Africa. Wild American species are more frequently called vervains. The European vervain ( V. officinalis ), now naturalized in the United States, was sacred to the Greeks, Romans, and Druids and is associated in Christian tradition with the Crucifixion. In the Doctrine of Signatures, its bright flowers were seen as an indication that the plant could cure eye problems. Plants of the genus Avicennia are a characteristic constituent of tropical mangrove vegetation. Economically, the most important member of the family is teak. The family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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