Verbenaceae Plant Family

About the Verbenaceae or Verbena Family

Verbenaceae is a diverse family of flowering plants that is distributed worldwide in both tropical and temperate regions. It includes a wide range of plant types, including herbs, shrubs, and trees, some of which are economically and ecologically important. The family is recognized by its characteristic inflorescences that are often showy and fragrant. Many species in this family have ornamental value, such as Lantana and Verbena, and others have medicinal properties or are used for folk remedies.

Taxonomy and Classification

Verbenaceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Lamiales. It includes about 75 genera and over 3, species. The largest genera are Lantana, Stachytarpheta, Glandularia, and Verbena. Some notable subfamilies within Verbenaceae include Chloantheae, Citharexyleae, Duranteae, Petreae, and Priveae.

Verbenaceae is related to other plant families such as Lamiaceae (mint family), Oleaceae (olive family), and Plantaginaceae (plantain family). The family is characterized by having opposite leaves, usually with serrated margins, and four- ovary. The flowers are typically arranged in spikes, racemes, or panicles.

Morphology and Characteristics

Plants in the Verbenaceae family exhibit a wide range of morphological diversity, but they share some common characteristics. Most species in this family have opposite leaves that are simple, usually with serrated margins. The flowers are arranged in spikes, racemes, or panicles and are often showy and fragrant. The flower structure is typically zygomorphic, with a two- corolla and four- ovary.

The fruits of Verbenaceae plants are varied, ranging from dry capsules to drupes. Some species have fleshy fruits that are edible, such as the fruit of the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete). Many Verbenaceae species are aromatic due to the presence of essential oils in their leaves and stems. Lantana, for example, has a distinctive scent that is used in perfumes and soaps.

Distribution and Habitat

Verbenaceae is a widely distributed family of plants found throughout the world, but with the highest species diversity in tropical regions. The family includes many species that are native to the Americas, particularly South America and the Caribbean. Some species are also found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Plants in the Verbenaceae family occupy a variety of habitats. Some species grow in dry, rocky areas, while others thrive in moist, shaded environments such as rainforests. Many Verbenaceae plants are adapted to arid conditions and can be found in deserts and other dry areas.

Some notable species in this family include Lantana camara, which is native to Central and South America but has become invasive in many parts of the world, and teak (Tectona grandis), which is native to Southeast Asia and is an important timber tree.

Economic and Ecological Importance

The Verbenaceae family is economically and ecologically important. Many species in this family have medicinal properties and are used for traditional remedies, such as Lippia dulcis, which is used to treat stomach aches and respiratory ailments.

Several Verbenaceae species have become popular ornamental plants due to their showy flowers and aromatic properties. Some examples include Verbena, Lantana, and Petrea volubilis.

Some species are also valuable timber trees, such as teak (Tectona grandis), which is widely used in the furniture industry. Additionally, some species have been used as sources of dyes, such as the purple dye obtained from the fruits of the Brazilian tree, Urunday (Myracrodruon urundeuva).

In ecosystems, Verbenaceae plants play an important role in providing habitat for wildlife and contributing to biodiversity. They serve as food sources for pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and are often planted to attract these animals to gardens and landscapes.

Notable Species

Some notable species of Verbenaceae include:

  • Lantana camara: Also known as the common lantana, this species is native to tropical regions of Central and South America but has become invasive in many parts of the world. It is a shrub that can grow up to 2 meters tall and has clusters of small, brightly colored flowers that are popular with butterflies. Despite its invasiveness, Lantana has ornamental value and is often used in landscaping.

  • Teak (Tectona grandis): This large deciduous tree is native to Southeast Asia and is highly valued for its durable wood, which is used in the furniture industry. Teak wood is resistant to decay and termites and is prized for its warm color and attractive grain patterns.

  • Verbena: This genus includes over 250 species of annual and perennial herbs that are grown for their showy flowers and fragrant foliage. Many Verbena species are native to the Americas and have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Some Verbena species are also cultivated as ornamental plants.

  • Petrea volubilis: Commonly known as the Queen' Wreath, this species is a woody vine that is native to Central America and the Caribbean. It has clusters of purple or blue flowers that resemble grape hyacinths and is often grown as an ornamental plant in warmer climates.

  • Callicarpa americana: Also called the American beautyberry, this species is native to the southeastern United States. It is a deciduous shrub that produces clusters of bright purple berries in the fall, which are attractive to birds. The leaves and stems of the plant contain compounds that have been shown to repel mosquitoes, making it a popular choice for natural insect repellents.