What is Deadnettle?

Bethney Foster

Deadnettle, scientifically called Lamium, refers to more than 40 types of flowering plants. Of the scientific family Lamiaceae, the Lamium species are most often classified as weeds. Originally native to Europe, deadnettle is now found wild in many parts of the world. While sometimes cultivated, these plants can quickly grow out of control and are listed as invasive species in some areas.

Deadnettle attracts butterflies.
Deadnettle attracts butterflies.

The name of the herb is derived from the plant’s appearance to the stinging nettle plants. The Lamium species do not sting when touched in the way of plants in the stinging nettle family, Urtica dioica. Common names for deadnettle include archangel, stingless nettle, and blind nettle.

Sometimes cultivated as ground cover or as a border in gardens, this perennial has some drought tolerance and will grow well in many types of soil and light conditions. It does best with some shade and in a well-drained area. It is popular with some gardeners because deer will not eat it, though slugs can damage the plant.

The plants are unlikely to grow taller than 10 inches (25.4 cm). Usually grown from stem cuttings, the plants can also be propagated from seed. Most Lamium species are considered to be evergreens, and varieties of the plant include red, purple, and spotted deadnettle.

The foliage is triangular in shape and has toothed leaves that are variegated. While a deep green at the bottom of the plant, the top-most leaves take on a purple tint. Deadnettle produces a square, hollow stem and grows in a sprawling manner. When cultivated, it is recommended that plants be cut after first bloom to avoid the plant spreading excessively.

The plants have small flowers that are purple, red, or white in color. The flowers are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and first bloom in late spring. The plant will often continue to produce flowers through autumn. The flowers form in clusters at the end of the stem.

Deadnettle has some uses in traditional medicine, including for use cleaning wounds and treating diarrhea. It was once thought that the leaves of the plant might offer a cure for some types of tuberculosis. The leaves of the plant are sometimes used in salads or soups.

Many people find the odor of deadnettle unpleasant. The plant is in the same scientific family as mint. Bees, birds, and butterflies are attracted to the flowers of the deadnettle because of the copious amount of nectar and pollen they produce.

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