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Photo of dead nettle stalk with flowers
Recognize dead nettle by the pyramidal look of its purple-tinted foliage.
Family

Lamiaceae (mints)

Description

A much-branched weed, often spreading in broad colonies in springtime; stems square; lacks a pleasant scent. Flowers in clusters above a dense canopy of massed leaves, rose-purple, trumpet-shaped with the typical mint-family lips. A white form is fairly rare. Blooms April-October. Leaves on long petioles, those subtending the inflorescence on short stems, heart-shaped, purplish- or bluish-green, wrinkled, with scalloped margins.

Similar species: Henbit (L. amplexicaule) is closely related and has many similarities. However, its foliage does not develop the pagoda-like or pyramidal shape that dead nettle's does. Instead, henbit's upper leaves look something like frilly collars around the stem.

Size

Height: to 10 inches.

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Photo of a clump of dead nettle plants.
Dead Nettle
Dead nettle, like its close relative henbit, is a common, weedy mint that, in early spring, can carpet wide patches of disturbed ground.
Habitat and conservation

Grows in waste places, fallow fields, and gardens, and along roadsides and railroads. Like its relative henbit, dead nettle is a Eurasian plant introduced to North America long, long ago. Although it can be abundant and weedy, its shallow roots keep it from being a serious problem.

Dead Nettle distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Common south of Missouri River; scattered north of it.

Human connections

The purple blossoms of dead nettle and henbit are, for many, as sure a sign of spring as daffodils and tulips, and they lift winter-weary spirits accordingly. As a colonizer of disturbed ground, they beautify even the saddest of landscapes.

Ecosystem connections

Bees hurry to these mints in early spring, when they, too, are emerging from winter dormancy, and are in need of nectar. The shallow but abundant roots of these mints help bind soil in early spring.