Henbit is Blooming Everywhere!
Henbit can be confused with Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) though Henbit has heart-shaped leaves and Purple Dead Nettle has triangle shaped leaves that cluster in clumps. Both are winter annuals that get their start in the fall, form a small rosette of leaves in the winter and then have those carpets of flowers in the spring. Seed formation follows and the plants die in the summer.
Henbit leaves are high in iron, vitamins and fiber; it can be boiled, then cooked with butter, spices and a sour cream white sauce. Highly valued by foragers, Henbit and Dead Nettle are added to smoothies, cooked and eaten raw. Henbit is also eaten by some animals and can cause ‘staggers’ in sheep, horses and cattle.
Henbit’s Latin name is Lamium amplexicaule, with amplexicaule meaning clasping, or, how the leaves clasp the stems. Lamium is from Lamia, a Greek mythology creature name as such because the flowers resemble small creatures. The Henbit name is because hens enjoy eating it.
Spotted Deadnettle, Lamium maculatum, is widely sold as an ornamental garden plant, but it is just as weedy as its cousins.
All of these Lamiums are used as pollen and nectar sources for long-tongued bees such as honey bees, bumble bees and digger bees. Many birds eat the seeds.
Henbit, Purple Dead Nettle and Spotted Deadnettle have the characteristic square stem that all mints have. Ground Ivy is also a mint (Lamiaceae family) but has pale blue tubular flowers. Henbit’s leaves whorl around the stem and the flowers form long tubes when they are fully open.
Whether Henbit, Spotted Deadnettle and Purple Dead Nettle are weeds, bee pollen, salad greens or free spinach is up to you but if you decide to eat them, limit your consumption since they are reputed to be an excitant, fever-reducer, laxative, stimulant and to induce sweating.
Resources: Eat The Weeds.com, Identify That Plant.com, Foraged Foodie.com and A Forager’s Life.com