Dead Nettle

Photo of dead nettle stalk with flowers
Scientific Name
Lamium purpureum
Lamiaceae (mints)

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.

Where To Find
Dead Nettle distribution map

Common south of Missouri River; scattered north of it.

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.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!