Dead nettle, sometimes referred to as purple nettle, (Lamium purpureum) is all over our yard this spring.
I once thought of dead nettle only as a horrible weed we needed to pull, but I am now understanding how useful it is. The common name of “dead nettle” refers to the fact that they do not have stingers like the stinging nettle. They have square stems and produce double-lipped flowers in a wide range of colors. The leaves of the plant are oval, jagged, have long stalks, and are arranged in pairs opposite to each other. They have a triangular, smoothed base and grow up to 3 cm to 8 cm in length and are 2 cm to 5 cm in width.
Besides backyards, dead nettle can be found and foraged for in many areas. You will often find them on the roadside, usually taking over disturbed or previously tilled ground.
Nettles are naturally full of Vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron. They have an earthy flavor to them and can be used in any recipe as a replacement for spinach. When you collect them, simply snip the stems about 1/2″ from the ground. Carefully shake off any dirt or bugs, and place in your collection container.
Nettle flowers can also be dried and used in herbal teas later on.
The whole plant has astringent qualities. Nettles also have diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative, and styptic properties. An infusion of the plant is particularly useful for hemorrhage, while the fresh bruised leaves can be applied to external cuts and wounds.
You’ll often find dead nettles near henbit.
They are similar in size, but henbit has more green leaves, while dead nettle’s leaves are more purple. Both have purple, tubular flowers appearing in clusters at the top of the plant.