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Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

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Common Name
Henbit Deadnettle
(Blind Nettle, Bee Nettle)

 

Scientific Name
Lamium amplexicaule L.

 

Mint (Lamiaceae)

Garden Location
Historical - not extant

 

Prime Season
Spring to Late Spring Flowering

 

 

Henbit Deadnettle is a semi-erect annual to biennial forb, growing from 6 to 12 inches high with 4-angled purple tinged stems which are usually without hair. The plant may branch from the base. The flowering part of the stem is usually erect.

The leaves are of two types: Lower stalked leaves and upper stem leaves that are without stalks or clasping the stem. Leaves are opposite on the stem, egg-shaped to circular with crenations or shallow lobes that have crenations. The stem leaves subtend a set of smaller green bracts of the inflorescence. The lower stalked leaves are similar. All have a reticulated vein pattern with surface hair - dense on the underside.

The Spring inflorescence is a series of well spaced verticillasters. A 'verticillaster' is where the flowers look like a whorl arrangement but are actually in cymes that rise from the axils of opposite bracts. Only a few flowers in each cyme open at one time. There can be one to five clusters. Plants that recover in Autumn will produce non-opening self-fertilizing flowers (called cleistogamous flowers). These also produce seed.

The individual flowers are tubular with a short green calyx that is hairy and have 5 long-pointed lobes. The flowers have a pinkish-purple corolla that forms a long tube and then flares out into an upper and lower lip. The upper lip is notched at the center and rises to form a hood-like structure over the stamens. The sides of the tube flare outward just a bit between the upper lip and the larger two-lobed lower lip, which looks somewhat heart-shaped. The outside of the corolla is hairy; the inside of the lips is usually whitish but some flowers can be pinkish, but always with darker pink large spots. There are 4 stamens, in pairs of different length. The style has a bifurcated tip. Neither style nor stamens are exserted from the corolla. Corolla and calyx are up to 1 inch long. Flowers contain for their size, much nectar.

Seed: Fertile flowers usually produce a cluster of 4 nutlets that are sharply 3-angled, ovoid shaped, dark brown flecked with white dots. Seeds are long-lived.

 

Habitat: Henbit has adapted to wide range of habitats, soil conditions, temperatures and moisture conditions. It can go through the entire Spring growing season without rainfall. It is a cool season plant, dying back in Summer heat, but can redevelop in the cool of Autumn when it produces the second set of seeds. It is found in waste places, agricultural fields, and areas not being disturbed as it must set seed to propagate. The root has a slender taproot.

Names: The genus Lamium is exclusively assigned to the Deadnettle plants and is derived from the Latin word for the plant - Labiatae. The species amplexicaule means 'stem clasping', coming from two separate words. Amplexi referring to clasping and caule referring to a stem. The author name for the plant classification 'L.' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.

The common name of Deadnettle refers to the plant resembling a nettle but without stinging hairs - thus 'dead'. That resemblance came from Lamium album, the White Deadnettle, where the leaves resemble those of our common stinging nettle.

Comparison: There are 5 known species of Lamium in North America. In most parts of the midwest, the plant most closely resembling Henbit is our blessed Creeping Charlie, or Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, where the stems also trail but the leaves are all on stalks, the flowerers purplish-blue instead, and the flower has more noticable side lobes.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

inflorescence drawing

Above: The inflorescence is a separated group of vertillicasters along the upper stem. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions.

Below: The stems frequently are decumbent with just the flowering end erect. This plant shows multiple stems from the root with up to four verticillasters on some stems. Note the stalked lower leaves.

full plant

Below: 1st photo - the stem leaves are opposite, stalkless to clasping, hairy. 2nd photo - looking down at the verticillaster, nutlets are visible.

stem leaf verticillaster

Below: 1st photo - the vertillicaster at the top of the stem, not all flowers open at once. 2nd photo - the seeds are brown with white spots; 3-angled. 3rd photo - the root develops a slender taproot.

inflorescence seeds root

Below: Threee views of the flower. 1st photo - the corolla tube is long and tubular. 2nd photo - 2 petals from an upper hood-like lip, 2 slightly flaring side lobes and a much larger lower lip of two-lobes. The two pair of stamens are tucked under the upper lip. 3rd photo - the calyx is short with 5 awl-like lobes.

flower sideview corolla throat calyx

Notes:

Notes: Henbit was introduced to the Wildflower Garden by Eloise Butler on Sept. 8, 1919 when she got plants from Lyndale Gardens, a nursery in Minneapolis. The plant was known to her from Maine and Massachusetts and was one of those species she thought should have a place in the new Wildflower Reserve. Martha Crone did not list it on her 1951 Garden census.

Henbit is found in all of North America except the far northern Canadian Provinces. In many areas it has not made extensive inroads but in a number of states in the west and south it is extensively found and is a serious agricultural pest. In was introduced from Europe, some sources say probably no longer ago than the 1920s, but Ada George already had it in her book A Manual of Weeds (Ref. #6b) in 1914 and listed extensive U.S. distribution. In Minnesota the DNR surveys have found populations in Carver and Dakota Counties. It is the only species of Lamium the DNR reports in Minnesota although the U of M Herbarium reports a collection of Lamium album, White Deadnettle, in Ramsey County.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.



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