Lamium is a group of as many as 50 unique species of flowering annuals and perennials that are members of the mint family, also known by its scientific name, Lamiaceae. Plants from this genus are often referred to by their common name, deadnettle. Most plants of this genus are native to the meadows of Europe. Lamium maculatum, or spotted deadnettle, is often planted in gardens, either as a ground cover or as a plant that occupies border space. The related species Lamium album, or white deadnettle, has leaves that are used in both cooking and herbal medicine.
The name shared by most plants of the Lamium genus, deadnettle, is unusual considering that the plants are not classified as or related to nettles. However, their physical appearance somewhat resembles that of the stinging nettle, which secretes toxins and distributes them via tiny stinging hairs. Deadnettles do not have these hairs, and so do not sting, but the logic follows that if a plant looks like a stinging nettle, then it must be a stinging nettle. Furthermore, if a stinging nettle does not sting, it must be dead, hence the name "deadnettle."
Plants of the genus Lamium have jagged oval leaves that are usually bright green mottled with some other color, such as cream, silver, or darker green. Their small flowers are shaped similarly to the flowers of the snapdragon, with a collection of lower petals dwarfed by a larger uppermost petal. These flowers come in a variety of shades depending on individual species, but are most often pink, white, or yellow. In the case of L. maculatum, one of the most popular species of Lamium for planting in gardens, the flowers bloom continuously throughout the year and attract birds, bees, and butterflies.
These plants are generally easy to grow and maintain in a garden. They are usually propagated from seeds, and prefer to be grown in shady conditions so their leaves do not scorch in the sun. Also, they tend to prefer dry or even sandy soil, and their roots can begin to rot if they are over-watered. They are popular as ground covers because they spread quickly, with stems that reach the ground often taking root and developing into plants. Due to this tendency to spread, some species of Lamium are regarded as weeds.
Lamium album, the white deadnettle, has edible leaves that may be enjoyed in salads or as cooked vegetable greens. It also has uses in traditional herbal medicine, including the treatment of numerous skin conditions. White deadnettle is also used to soothe menstrual cramps. When used for medicinal reasons, it is usually consumed as a tea.