Differential Morphology of Purple Deadnettle, Henbit, & Ground Ivy

Updated: Apr 27


These three common mints are abundant in yards, gardens, fallow fields, and disturbed soil all across the US. All being of similar size and overall shape, with almost identical little purple irregular flowers, they are often confused with each other.


To help you get to know their unique features, I've created a video to show you some simple characteristics to look for to tell them apart and laid out the details in this post. You can check out the video on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/107342484222450/videos/223410732284967/



Morphological Characteristics of the Mint family (Lamiaceae)

  • Square stem

  • Opposite leaves

  • Usually Aromatic

  • Almost always zygomorphic flowers irregular flowers with 5 petals (3 up, 2 down)


1. Lamium purpureum -Purple Deadnettle (Red Deadnettle, Red Henbit)

Purpureum refers to the purple pigmentation of the top leaves and flowers, which come from anthocyanin flavonoids


Morphology:

  • Leaves are deltoid or cordate

  • Serrate margins

  • Opposite leaves with petioled (or stalked) leaf attachment

  • Leaves turn reddish/purple toward the top of the stem


Edible & Medicinal:

  • Cooling, astringent, diaphoretic - good for hot conditions & inflammation (rheumatism, fevers, etc.)

  • Antibacterial & Antifungal

  • Vulnerary

  • Highly nutritious - packed with Vitamin C & flavonoids, antioxidants, iron

  • Mild tasting but a little fuzzy- great pot herb



2. Lamium amplexicaule - Common Henbit (Greater Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle)


Morphology:

  • Reniform leaves

  • Crenate to shallowly lobed margins

  • Opposite leaves that have no petiole (sessile) clasp the stem (amplexicaul)- have the appearance of being whorled but but are actually opposite

  • Flowers, however, are in whorls at the top of the stem

Edible & Medicinal

  • Cooling, astringent, diaphoretic - good for hot conditions & inflammation

  • Vulnerary

  • High in iron, vitamins, antioxidants

  • Tastes like raw kale - great raw or as pot herb



3. Glechoma hederacea syn. Nepeta hederacea - Ground Ivy (Gill-over-the-ground,

Creeping Charlie, Robin Runaway, Alehoof, Field Balm, Catsfoot)

Hederacea = “of ivy”


Morphology:

  • Reniform to orbicular leaves

  • Crenate margins

  • Long petioles

  • Slightly bitter


Edible & Medicinal

  • Bitter, hepatic herb - helps the body detoxify - has been used for heavy metal poisoning

  • Use for inflamed mucous membranes

  • Antiseptic

  • High in vitamin C

  • Great pot herb, a bit bitter for salads


Differential Characteristics:

Flowers are all very similar; irregular & purple in color, all have square stems, opposite leaves, all have pubescent leaves, all grow under 2’ in height

  • L. purpureum: Have petioles, cordate-deltoid, serrate leaves

  • L. amplexicaule: No petioles (amplexicaul), reniform, crenate leaves

  • G. hederacea: Long petioles, reniform-orbicular, crenate leaves



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