‘The devouring purple monster’

The Red Dead-nettle’s scientific name Lamium purpureum has the Greek translation ‘the devouring purple monster’, which describes the effect this weed has on its environment.

Other common names: purple dead-nettle, purple archangel

The red dead-nettle is usually considered an annual winter weed, and originates from Europe and Asia. They are common throughout Europe , especially in Britain, Israel, Norway, northern Africa, western Asia and the Mediterranean. It was also introduced into the U.S. and Canada, where it is now abundant in both countries.

L. purpureum prefers full sun to light shade, and moist fertile soils, often being a common sight in areas where the land has been disturbed or cultivated. This can include along roadside verges, waste grounds, and field verges. These plants can also be found anytime between March and October.

Red dead-nettles can grow as high as 30 cm and about 18 cm wide under optimum conditions (stated above).

L. purpureum can look similar to the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), with its heart-shaped, toothed leaves. However, the leaves can appear crowned around the stem’s axis, and the upper ones tend to be purple or red.

These dead-nettles typically bloom in April, producing distinctive pink/red ‘hooded’ flowers that appear up the stem. These flowers usually last for about six weeks, before each flower produces four nutlet seeds, which can be replanted for additional growth.

Certain bees, including the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) and bumblebees (Bombus genus), and other long-tongued insects enjoy the nectar of the flowers. Also, the caterpillars of the garden tiger, white ermine, and angel shades moths feed on the leaves.

The leaves of L. purpureum are considered ‘dead’, due to the fact that they do not contain stinging hairs.

This plant is also a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), which is determined by its four-sided square stem.