Species of the day: White Dead-nettle

25 March 2020 | Posted in James Duncan
Species of the day: White Dead-nettle
© James Duncan

By James Duncan

Learning and Engagement Officer

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album) is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family, the Lamiaceae. Interestingly this extensive family of plants take their name from a creature of ancient Greek mythology, the Lamia. She was a woman who ultimately became a half-serpent, child-eating monster, her name translating to 'gaping mouth.' It's actually the shape of the flowers within this family that give rise to this connection and specifically the appearance of the lips of the petals.

White Dead Nettle 3

However, these have a far more important purpose in nature. The lower lip provides a suitable landing platform for bees and other insects to pollinate the flowers, whilst the upper lip protects the stamens which transfer pollen onto the pollinating insect. The White Dead-nettle is therefore a very important source of nectar for bees, particularly at this time of the year, when few other nectar-producing plants are in flower. 

The reason for its name - it bears a close resemblance to the true 'stinging nettle' and indeed prior to producing flowers is remarkably similar. Fortunately it doesn't have any stinging (urticating) hairs so the 'dead' in its name refers to its inability to inflict any injury.

White Dead Nettle 4

White Dead-nettle © James Duncan

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