Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Henbit was always part of the lawn when I was growing up. Its tiny purple flowers were a more reliable sign of spring's approach than robins or daffodils. I called it "clover" when I was a kid. Looking back, I think that's what I called most of the plants in the lawn that weren't obviously St. Augustine grass. I was not a botanically-aware child.

Henbit's fancy dress-up name is Lamium amplexicaule. It grows all over the United States, and Europe, and in large swathes of Africa, Asia, and probably Mars. A member of the family Lamiaceae, it is related to mint, oregano, thyme, lavender, basil, and sage, its more herbal cousins. The leaves are said to be edible, and especially good when lightly dressed in a salad. You can see henbit's resemblance to mint in the texture of the leaves, and the square cross-sectional shape of the stem.

Henbit is often confused with Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), but henbit's leaves attach directly to the main stem, with no petioles. Purple Deadnettle leaves dangle a bit, often overlapping, while Henbit's leaves wrap around the main stem, forming a shape like a cup or bowl.

Because henbit has just always been part of the standard outdoor greenery for me, I was taken aback when I started researching the plant: there's a considerable amount of vitriol aimed its way. "It's taking over my lawn! How do I kill it?" "I thought I killed it all, then it came back!" "Oh no! It's in my lawn AGAIN!!!"

All this over....henbit? I think of henbit as the cute purple flower that blooms even in winter, not as a skulking psycopathic lawn & garden destroyer. How bad can it be, if the bloom looks like Dino the Dinosaur?


  1. Hello Joy. I saw you over at Greenfinger's blog (Phil).

    We have that little wildflower in the UK too but I can't remember what we call it here. I'll have to look it up.

    I'm afraid Brits are every bit as paranoid about ridding the lawns of every little plant that isn't a blade of grass, except me that is..... I actually raise wildflowers to plant in the lawn. :O)

  2. Lesley, I've always thought that we're growing the wrong lawn plants if "grass" is so delicate and "weeds" grow so easily.

  3. Joy-- nice to "meet" you! I've been following your trail from Berry-Go-Round. This would be a good post to submit for the March edition. Thanks for all the comments to BGR participants. I'll be back to check more of this delightful blog!

  4. Thanks for the suggestion, Sally. The BGR is great fun, and it would be great to submit this.