henbit.jpg

Photo of henbit plants with flowers
MDC Staff
Edible
Family

Lamiaceae (mints)

Description

Henbit is a branching, soft, weedy plant with square stems, lacking a pleasant scent, notably blooming in early spring. It blooms February–November. Flowers are small, bright lavender with red spots, with the tubular, lipped configuration typical of the mint family, in terminal clusters, subtended by sessile leaves. Except for the leaves right beneath the flower clusters, all leaves are rounded, scalloped, and close to the ground.

Similar species: Dead nettle (L. purpureum) has a distinctive, 4-sided, pagoda-like or pyramidal leaf arrangement. The heart-shaped leaves become larger and have longer stems the lower they are on the stalk.

Size

Height: to 10 inches.

Henbit_2-7-17.jpg

Photo of henbit flowers
Henbit
Henbit's flowers are small, bright lavender with red spots, with the tubular, lipped configuration typical of the mint family.

Henbit field

purple flowers cover a sloping field
Henbit in a Farm Field

Henbit_North_Jefferson_City.jpg

Photo of henbit covering a fallow field with bluffs in background
Henbit In Fallow Field North of Jefferson City
Henbit turns fallow fields pinkish purple in early spring.
Habitat and conservation

Common in waste places, fallow fields, gardens, roadsides, and railroads. Native of Eurasia and Africa.

image of Henbit distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, but mostly south of the Missouri River.

Status

Common and widespread. Although it is almost universally viewed as a weed, it is not a serious one because its roots are so shallow and it fades before crops begin to grow..

Human connections

This non-native weed is nevertheless enjoyed for its ability to turn fallow fields pinkish purple in early spring. Its shallow roots prevent it from being a serious agricultural weed. Additionally, it is an edible plant and may be eaten as a potherb or added to spring salads.

Ecosystem connections

Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees drink nectar from these early-blooming flowers, and some species of birds consume the tiny seeds. The plants can play a role in binding soils that are otherwise bare and prone to erosion.