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.
Height: to 10 inches.
Common south of Missouri River; scattered north of it.
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.
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, these purple flowers, growing so upright with their tidy geometry, beautify even the saddest of landscapes.
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.