10 Mar Harbingers of Spring
Henbit – Lamium amplexicaule
Common Henbit is a short, sprawling annual herb with light hairy stems. The specific Latin name “amplexicaul” refers to the leaves grasping the stem. The seeds of this low-growing plant are a tasty treat for foraging chickens, hence the name Henbit. Turtles and voles also love Henbit!
Henbit is an annual herb of the mint family that has naturalized all across the United States from warmer climates in Eurasia and North Africa.
As weeds go, this is a beneficial plant — even a nutritious and edible weed— but many commonly refer to Henbit as a “dratted weed” to be eradicated with sprays and yanked out of flower gardens. While we have yet to sample this culinary tidbit, others say Henbit is a very nutritious plant, all parts can be eaten raw or cooked!
Henbit is found blanketing meadows, fields, and becomes an integral part of the flora, and poses no threat to local ecosystems.
As a late winter bloomer for our habitat, there are many benefits to allowing Henbit to grow. These tiny flowers provide crucial nectar and pollen for many early pollinators. Especially hungry bees and butterflies, like this new Black Swallowtail, that emerge before the arrival of spring’s blooming flowers. These happy faces are our favorite harbingers of spring, soon to come!
A prolific re-seeder, this plant will readily grow before early spring plowing, blanketing fields with a lovely sea of lavender, pink, and purple blooms.
Authors: Kathleen Hird Kostner and Ricardo Kostner
©Hird and Kostner | Reproduction only with written permission from the authors.