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Henbit, Purple Deadnettle, and Ground Ivy

Glenn R.W. Nice, Weed Science Extension Professional
Agronomy Department, Purdue University

Infestations of henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), purple deadnettle (L. purpureum), and ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) can result the beautiful patches of purple we see in the spring. Although beautiful, they are not always welcome in your yards or fields. Identification of the three can sometimes be tricky. They are all members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and have the characteristic square stems. However, they differ in their life cycles. Both henbit and purple deadnettle are winter annuals (completing their life cycles in the spring), but ground ivy is a perennial (this live cycle lasting more than one year). All three of these plants can bloom as early as April and ground ivy can continue to bloom into June. The flowers are tiny, tubular, pink to purple, and can be found in the upper leaf axils of all three plants.

Ground ivy's stems generally lie along the ground, rooting at the nodes and the leaves are round to kidney shaped. However the reproductive stems are more ascending and can sometimes be confused for henbit or purple deadnettle. When looking at the reproductive stems of all three, both ground ivy and purple deadnettle leaves are bore on petioles. Whereas, the henbit has sessile (leaf is attached directly to the stem) leaves. The leaves of purple deadnettle are also more triangular, having shallow lobes when compared to henbit. The upper leaves of purple deadnettle also are often red to purple tinted, unlike both henbit and ground ivy leaves.

Click on the small image to view a larger image. (Photos by Glenn Nice.)

Henbit  (Lamium amplexicaule)
Purple Deadnettle (L. purpureum) Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) Purple Deadnettle (L. purpureum) Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

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Last updated: 15 April 2002/tlm.
The Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue University.