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 Henbit Deadnettle

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PostSubject: Henbit Deadnettle   Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:46 pm



Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), also known as Henbit Deadnettle or Greater Henbit, is a wildflower or as some call invasive weed, native to just about everywhere in North America.

As usual, there isn’t much problem with the species name, amplexicaule, which means “clasping” or in this case how the leaves grab the stem. It’s the genus name, Lamium, that causes problems. Most writers think it is Greek.

“Lamina” is Latin, from which we get the English word “laminate.” It would be fine to say “Lamium” comes from the Latin word “Lamina.” But when you say it comes from Greek, Lamium would come from a totally different word, “Lamia.” “Lamia” was the name of grotesque creatures in Greek mythology and means “female man-eater.” The little flower can resemble creatures, if you have an imagination. Regardless, the origin of the scientific name is still confusing, and nobody really knows just where it came from.

The common name, Henbit, is like chickweed and comes from watching chickens liking it. They’re not alone. Humming birds like it, too, but for nectar, and Henbit can be used for erosion control.

It flowers very early in the spring even in northern areas, and for most of the winter, and the early spring in warmer areas such as the Mediterranean region.

It propagates freely by seed and is regarded as a minor weed. Sometimes entire fields will be reddish-purple with its flowers before spring ploughing. Where common, is an important nectar and pollen plant for bees, especially honeybees, where it helps start the spring buildup.

Henbit is a member of the Mint Family, as well. There are a lot of mints that do not smell minty, some of them are edible and some of them are not. In fact, some of the mints can make you ill. Henbit does not smell minty, but it is an edible mint. By they way, there are no poisonous look alikes. As for toxicity, we’re safe but it has been known to cause “staggers” in sheep, horses, and cattle.




Henbit can sometimes be confused with Purple Dead Nettle, which is also edible. The difference in the two can be seen in the leaves. Henbit has heart-shaped leaves with big scalloped edges that grow along the entire length of the stem. The Purple Dead Nettle (dead in this case means not stinging) has more triangular shaped leaves that grow in a big clumps. Both are very nutritious, high in iron, vitamins and fiber. The seeds of the Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum, (LAM-ee-um per-PER-ee-um) have antioxidants and presumably the L. amplexicaule would as well.

Henbit has been an esteemed vegetable for a long time. Their mild, sweet taste stands in contrast to the crisp leaves usually put in salads. John Gerard, the English herbalist for whom the Geradia is named, wrote of Henbit some 400 years ago: “The floures are baked with sugar as Roses are, which is called Sugar roset: as also the distilled water of them, which is used to make the heart merry, to make a good colour in the face, and to refresh the vitall spirits.”

TIME OF YEAR: Springtime in temperate climes, February and March in Florida, found throughout North America into arctic circle.

ENVIRONMENT: Waste ground, lawns, cultivated fields, pastures, roadsides, railroads, can create a bed of purple. Tolerates most soils and conditions. Can grow under shrubs where grass won’t.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Young leaves, raw or cooked, added to salads or as a potherb. No poisonous look alikes. Stems and flowers are edible, too.

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