Dead-nettles, Woundworts & Allies

Large-flowered Hemp-nettle Common Hemp-nettle White Dead-nettle Marsh Woundwort

What are they?

These species are all members of the Lamiaceae, the Labiate family. This section of what is a rather large family of plants, includes mostly herbaceous perennial and a few annual plants. Some have leaves that are rather nettle-like in appearance, but they are downy and do not sting. These plants have square stems, opposite leaves and distinctive flowers, that have a tubular base and a two-lipped opening at the mouth. The flowers are carried in whorls in the leaf axils and are often marked with darker spots in the mouth. Many species have distinctive aromas (some rather unpleasant!) and some have been used as herbal remedies in the past.

Where are they found?

This is a fairly large and diverse group of plants, but most are native and may typically be found in damp or shady places. Differences in habitat choice for the species can be useful in the identification process.

Identification

Most species can be identified by a combination of leaf shape and hairiness, together with flower colour and markings. In some, details of the calyx can be useful. The calyx is the green tube from where the petals emerge and is formed by the fusing together of the sepals.



White Dead-nettle     Lamium album

A very common plant of grassy and disturbed places. Flowers May to December, though often more or less absent for a time in late summer/early autumn. A distinctive and easily-recognised plant with its nettle-like, softly downy leaves, square stems and whorls of white flowers that bear black-tipped stamens.

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Red Dead-nettle     Lamium purpureum

An abundant plant of cultivated and disturbed places. Flowers more or less throughout the year, although scarce during late summer. Much smaller than White Dead-nettle with rounder, softly downy leaves. Rather perversely, plants may occasionally be found with white flowers, but can still be told from White Dead-nettle by their rounder leaves and smaller stature.

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Cut-leaved Dead-nettle     Lamium hybridum

A widespread plant of cultivated ground, preferring heavier, more fertile soils and largely absent from sandy, acidic soils in the Brecks and Suffolk Sandlings. Flowers more or less throughout the year, but mostly March to October. A small plant that closely resembles Red Dead-nettle (and often grows with it), but has deeply notched leaf margins.

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Henbit Dead-nettle     Lamium amplexicaule

A widespread species of cultivated or disturbed ground, usually growing on drier, sandy or light, chalky soils and less common on heavier clays. Flowers more or less throughout the year, but mostly March to October. Differs from other dead-nettles in the region in its leaves, which clasp the stem in pairs and form deeply-toothed collars like ruffs. Its flowers have long, slender bases and stand proud of the leaves.

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Spotted Dead-nettle     Lamium maculatum

Introduced from the continent as a garden ornamental and occasionally found spreading from dumped garden waste. Flowers May to October. Garden forms - and those likely to be found in the region - have an obvious pale blotch on the leaves which, in some selected forms, may cover most of the leaf. Flowers are larger and more showy than those of our native, red-flowered dead-nettles. A creeping, perennial species that forms spreading mats.

Spotted Dead-nettle Spotted Dead-nettle Spotted Dead-nettle Spotted Dead-nettle
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Yellow Archangel     Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. montanum

A native of woodland and shady lanes on heavier, boulder clay soils. Often considered a good indicator species of ancient woodland. Flowers May to June. In every way a dead-nettle with yellow flowers. This native subspecies has relatively narrow, all green leaves - compare with the following, introduced form of the same species.

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Variegated Archangel     Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum

A popular garden plant that soon becomes aggresive and dominant. This unfortunately means that this is one of the commonest invasives in roadside copses and shady places, where people dump unwanted garden refuse. Flowers May to June. A vigorously spreading plant, forming extensive mats of variegated leaves.

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Black Horehound     Ballota nigra

Common and widespread on roadsides, grassy places and waste ground. Flowers June to October. An upright, branching perennial species with softly downy, leaves and a pungent aroma that is once learned, never forgotten! Flowers are relatively small for a member of this group. The calyx lobes have finely-pointed tips.

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White Horehound     Marrubium vulgare

A scarce species of chalky grassland, considered to be probably native in NW Norfolk and in the Suffolk Brecks. Elsewhere, occasionally found as a relic of cultivation, especially in grassy places where a cottage once stood. Flowers June to October. A distinctive species with densely-furry, deeply crinkled leaves. The white flowers have a deeply notched upper petal and the calyx has 10, slightly hook-tipped, teeth.

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Common Cat-mint     Nepeta cataria

A scarce species of chalky grassland, perhaps native in such sites in West Norfolk and West Suffolk, but also found elsewhere on road verges as a relic of former cultivation as a medicinal herb. Flowers July to September. A tall, upright species with densely-furry leaves and a very distinctive 'catnip' smell. Flowers are small and crowded into dense, terminal spikes.

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Common Hemp-nettle     Galeopsis tetrahit

A widespread species which occurs both as an arable weed and as a plant of damp, shady places. Flowers July to September. A bushy, annual species which is rather variable in appearance and can pink or white flowers, but usually with the same yellow patch and purple veining on the lower lip.

Common Hemp-nettle Common Hemp-nettle Common Hemp-nettle Common Hemp-nettle
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Bifid Hemp-nettle     Galeopsis bifida

A widespread species but less frequent than Common Hemp-nettle and often growing with it. Flowers July to September. Very similar to Common Hmep-nettle and the two were formerly considered to be forms of the same species. Bifid Hemp-nettle has narrower flowers, with a solid pink mark on the lower lip and also an obvious notch in the lower lip.

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Large-flowered Hemp-nettle     Galeopsis speciosa

Locally common in arable areas and waste corners in the Fens but rare and not persisting elsewhere. Flowers July to September. One of the most attractive members of the group when in flower. A coarsely hairy, annual species with calyxes that are long-toothed and have prominent, ribbed veins.

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Red Hemp-nettle     Galeopsis angustifolia

Very rare nationally and critically endangered. Currently known from just two coastal shingle sites. Flowers July to October. A slender, narrow-leaved, branching annual with deep pink flowers. Plants on impoverished, coastal shingle may sometimes consist only of one pair of leaves and a single flower!

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Betony     Betonica officinalis

A species of ancient woodland and damp, shady places. Much declined due to habitat loss and now rare, being most frequent in southern Suffolk. Flowers June to September. A distinctive species; lower leaves have long leaf stalks and form a mat of vegetation early in the year. Upper leaves are unstalked.

Betony Betony Betony Betony
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Hedge Woundwort     Stachys sylvatica

Common and widespread in shady places and lightly disturbed ground. Flowers July to August. Flowers deep wine-red, leaves broad-based with a narrow stalk.

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Marsh Woundwort     Stachys palustris

A common and widespread species of damp places. Flowers July to August. Flowers pinkish-red, paler and broader-petaled than those of Hedge Woundwort. Leaves lance-shaped and stalkless.

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Field Woundwort     Stachys arvensis

Scattered throughout the region but usually avoiding chalky soils. Scarce and declining and nowhere common. Flowers May to October. A small annual species that rather resembles the smaller dead-nettle species, but has pale pink flowers and is roughly hairy.

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Lamb's-ear     Stachys byzantina

Introduced from mainland Europe and occasionally surviving from dumped garden waste. Flowers May to October. Grown primarily for its densely silver-hairy stems and leaves. Flowers relatively small and nestled among densely-downy calyxes.

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Motherwort     Leonurus cardiaca

Introduced from mainland Europe as a medicinal herb but no longer popular and probably lost from the region. Flowers July to September. An upright plant with strongly-lobed lower leaves and three-lobed upper leaves. The flowers are narrow, pale pink and the calyxes have long, curved, spine-like teeth.

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