Henbit, scientifically known as Lamium amplexicaule, is an annual winter weed that belongs to the mint family. Unlike other mint plants, this one has no strong smell or flavor!
Although classified as a weed, there are many benefits to letting this plant grow in your yard. Please keep reading for all you need to know about this weed, including its history, how to identify it, and its uses!
How to Identify Henbit
Henbit prefers to grow in shady spots with moist, disturbed soil. This low-growing plant is most commonly found developing in lawns, fields, gardens, roadsides, and pastures.
On average, the common henbit grows to be between 4 to 16 inches tall. The plant has weak, green stems that are square and can either grow vertically or horizontally. With age, the stems lose their green and fade into a more purple color.
The plant’s leaves are veiny with rounded teeth and average 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter. The shape of the leaves is either round, egg-shaped, or heart-shaped, and the leaves grow opposite from one another. The farther you go down the stem, the farther apart the leaves grow.
Fine, soft hairs cover the plant and point downwards.
The weed’s flowers are small and tubular, appearing dark pink initially and maturing to a darker reddish-purple color.
Distinguishing Henbit From Purple Deadnettle
Henbit is often mistaken for purple deadnettle. Luckily, there is no real danger if you accidentally mistake one of these plants for another. However, properly identifying these plants is a surefire way to appreciate them for their worth!
The best way to tell the difference between henbit and purple deadnettle is by looking at the leaves and flowers. Purple deadnettle leaves have petioles that reach the top of the stem. On henbit stems, there are no petioles on the upper middle half.
Purple deadnettle leaves are noticeably more triangular than henbit leaves. Their flowers are longer and skinnier than purple deadnettle flowers and tend to be darker purple.
Henbit is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, around the Mediterranean region. The plant has naturalized in the Americas and grows in Australia and Greenland. The weed was first brought to North America from Europe as a natural chicken feed – hence the name!
Although most commonly referred to as just “henbit”, other names for this plant include common henbit, greater henbit, and henbit deadnettle.
Why is Henbit Considered a Weed?
Henbit reproduces by seed, and each plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds. Germination takes place in the fall and winter months and the plant remains mostly dormant until temperatures start to rise in the spring. If your area experiences warm spells during the winter, it may continue its growth!
This weed is quite hardy and grows very quickly. It can produce roots and establish another plant on plants where stems remain low to the ground.
Due to its germination months before the return of warmer weather, this weed is one of the first plants around the world to flower in the spring! As quickly as the plant flowers, it dies off once the hot summer temperatures begin.
Even though the lifecycle of the weed is not very long, its rapid ability to spread and its resistance to control factors make this plant a common weed. In areas where it’s widespread, the weed steals nutrients from the area, putting surrounding grass at risk of suffering and dying off.
Uses for the Plant
Henbit shoots, stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible, either raw or cooked. The flavor is earthy, slightly sweet, and a bit peppery. Younger plants are more tender, making them the best option for eating it.
The crisp, slightly chewy texture pairs well with other earthy flavors and adds great to fresh salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and more. Once picked, it’s best to immediately use your henbit to experience this plant’s best flavor. Soups, stews, and brewed teas can all benefit from adding this weed.
The plant is high in fiber and iron, and the flowers contain anthocyanins – an antioxidant that helps protect your cells and reduces inflammation!
Besides displaying beautiful small flowers, this weed provides a great nectar source for hummingbirds and honeybees.
Wild animals like to munch on the plant, and birds love to eat its seeds! In addition to helping animals, henbit helps the earth, too – the plant’s fibrous roots are great for preventing soil erosion.
How to Remove Henbit
Although henbit has many benefits, managing the spread is an important step to keeping an area under control. The best way to prevent the spread of the weed is by removing the weed before it flowers. Once flowers appear, seeds can spread rapidly and mark their territory to germinate again in the fall.
Hand weeding or using a weeding tool is the most effective way to remove this weed. When removing henbit from the ground, it’s important to ensure you’ve extracted the entire root – any part left in the ground may continue growing during the next season!
Unsure of which weeding tool is right for you? Check out our post all about weeding tools to learn more. Also, here is the best overall weeding tool from the previously mentioned post.
Although weed killer may remove it, routine lawn maintenance is often sufficient and eliminates the need to use herbicides on your property. Applying a 3-inch layer of mulch is another way to prevent growth, as it blocks the plant from receiving ample sunlight.
Due to the weed’s flat growing pattern, henbit is resistant to mowing. Growing dense, thick turf is a great way to prevent it from developing – the density will make it difficult for the weed to receive the nutrients needed, ultimately stopping the spread.
Mowing your lawn at a higher level is a great way to promote thick grass to remove weeds.
Wrapping Up Henbit
If you find henbit growing in your yard, consider how you’d like to approach it! While it’s important not to let this weed get out of hand, many reasons exist to celebrate its presence.
If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.
- About the Author
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Spending her early childhood in the Hudson Valley region of New York, Alanna Singletary has wonderful memories of helping her uncle tend to his lush garden each year.
Rather than turning on Saturday cartoons, her winter mornings were filled with sap collection and maple syrup production; while summer days brought tomato picking and countless hours tending to a homemade tomato sauce.
Now residing in North Carolina, Alanna continues to assist with her father’s grand garden and is working on growing crops of her own. Her garden experience at an early age set her up for a constant desire to learn, something she continues to carry in all aspects of life.