purple dead nettle look-alikes

Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes: Henbit and Ground Ivy

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Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes: Henbit, and Ground Ivy

When I first dipped my toes into the world of foraging, I often mixed up purple dead nettle with its look-alikes, henbit and ground ivy. These plants, all part of the mint family, share a striking resemblance and tend to grow together in the less-tended parts of gardens and yards. But with some guidance from reliable field guides, I gradually learned to distinguish them. On my property, I let purple dead nettle and henbit be, as long as they’re not causing any harm. However, I’m always on the lookout for ground ivy, an invasive species, to remove it promptly.

These plants might seem like unwanted visitors at first, but getting to know them can be quite rewarding and is a step towards responsible environmental care.

The Purpose of This Article

This article is designed to deepen your understanding of these plants. It’s not just about recognizing their beauty; it’s about noticing the small differences that set purple dead nettle apart from henbit and ground ivy. This knowledge not only enriches your foraging experience but also enhances your gardening skills. By learning about these plants, we gain a greater appreciation for nature’s complexity and our role in preserving its balance.

Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes

Purple Dead Nettle
henbit - purple dead nettle look-alikes
ground ivy, creeping charlie - purple dead nettle look-alikes
Ground Ivy

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

This plant is a herald of spring, easily recognized by its soft, fuzzy leaves that are heart-shaped at the base and become more triangular towards the top. 

The leaves have a distinctive green color with a purple tinge, especially on the upper leaves surrounding the flowers. 

Purple dead nettle’s flowers are one of its most charming features; they are small, tubular, and a beautiful shade of purple, nestled within the upper leaves, creating a striking contrast against the green foliage. 

The stems of purple dead nettle are square, a common trait in the mint family, and they tend to grow upright, forming dense clusters that can cover the ground in a lush carpet.

henbit - purple dead nettle look-alikes
Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes - Henbit

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Henbit shares the square stem characteristic of the mint family but sets itself apart with its vibrant reddish-purple flowers that are more pronounced and tubular than those of the purple dead nettle. 

These flowers emerge in whorls from the upper part of the stem, adding a splash of color to the landscape. Henbit’s leaves are rounded with a deep green color, and they clasp directly around the stem, giving the plant a more compact appearance. 

The leaves are crinkled, with pronounced veins, and the edges are softly toothed. Henbit tends to grow lower to the ground compared to purple dead nettle, and its dense growth pattern helps it stand out.

ground ivy, creeping charlie- purple dead nettle look-alikes
Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes - Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground ivy, or creeping charlie, is easily identifiable by its growth habit; it spreads across the ground with stems that root at the nodes, forming dense mats. 

Its leaves are round to kidney-shaped with scalloped edges, giving them a distinctive look. The color is a rich green, often with a hint of purple, especially in cooler temperatures. 

Ground ivy’s flowers are small but striking, with a blue-violet hue, and they grow in clusters from the leaf axils, adding a delicate beauty to the plant. 

The stems are square and tend to trail along the ground, rooting and spreading as they go. The minty aroma released when the leaves are crushed is a pleasant surprise and a quick way to confirm the plant’s identity.

Comparing Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes 

To illustrate the key differences between these three plants, let’s compare them side by side:

dead nettle, henbit, ground ivy

While dead nettle and henbit can be relatively well-behaved garden guests, ground ivy’s rampant growth and ability to displace other plants make it a more significant ecological concern.

Managing and Appreciating These Plants

For those looking to embrace a more natural and sustainable approach to gardening, there are organic methods for managing these weeds without resorting to harsh chemicals. Regular hand-pulling, mulching, and promoting healthy soil can go a long way in keeping them in check.

Alternatively, you may decide to intentionally cultivate dead nettle or henbit for their ornamental and functional values. These plants can provide valuable ground cover, attract pollinators, and offer a tasty addition to your kitchen garden.

purple dead nettle - purple dead nettle tea

Final Thoughts on Purple Dead Nettle Look-alikes

At first glance, dead nettle, henbit, and ground ivy might seem like mere nuisances. However, a closer look reveals their unique benefits and the importance of managing them responsibly. While ground ivy may need more aggressive control, dead nettle and henbit can be valuable components of a diverse and thriving garden ecosystem.

References and Further Reading


The Outdoor Apotheca website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

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