I haven't seen so much Henbit (L. amplexicaule) around before in my life so my curiosity to what folks have been saying about it peaked. After doing some searching online I can see there is a lot of misguided dislike directed toward this plant. Many folks give examples of proper herbicides to get rid of this unwanted plant and other practices to eradicate this plant from your garden. Please don't use herbicides at all, for starters, we love good soil and plant diversity! Secondly this plant does not deserve so much frustration.
Henbit is a member of the mint family. If you remember from my first blog and my second video all mints that smell like a mint and look like a mint are edible, but they must do both. There are a lot of mints that do not smell minty, some of them are edible and some of them are not. In fact, some of the mints can make you ill. Henbit does not smell minty, but it is an edible mint. By they way, there are no poisonous look a-likes. As for toxicity, we’re safe but it has causes “staggers” in sheep, horses, and cattle.
The common name, Henbit, comes from the observation that chickens like it. Humming birds also enjoy this wild edible for the nectar. Henbit provides valuable erosion control in many cropland fields in the southern U.S. Unlike many of its relatives in the mint family, it does not have a strong or distinctive mint scent.
Purple Deadnettle (L. purpureum)
It is also easily confused with Purple Deadnettle (L. purpureum), which has petioled leaves all the way to the top leaves. The middle and upper leaves of L. amplexicaule (henbit) do not have petioles, and the leaves are typically smaller than those of Purple Deadnettle. This edible plant is also an important early season source of nectar and pollen for honeybees.
Henbit is a winter annual that grows between 10 and 30 centimetres tall. This edible plant is sparsely covered with fine hairs that point downward, and it grows from a shallow taproot that becomes finely branched. The low growing, upright to sprawling plants have a number of weak stems arising from the base that may be erect or almost lay on the ground. The stems are square and green but often become purple with age and may root at the lower nodes. This edible weed reproduces solely by seed, and each henbit plant can produce 2,000 or more seeds. It also spreads by producing roots on lower stems that touch the ground.
Tiny, dark pink flowers occur in rings in the upper leaf axils. Open flowers are somewhat orchid-like, with a white face and dark red spots. Each flower produces a four-seeded fruit.
Leaves are arranged in opposite pairs. The lower leaf pairs are farther apart from each other than the upper leaf pairs. Leaves are round or heart-shaped, are .95 - 1.9 centimetres long, and leaf margins have rounded teeth. Veins of the upper leaf surface are recessed, giving it a somewhat wrinkled look. Lower leaves grow on short stalks, and upper leaves clasp the stem.
This wild edible can grow anywhere between 10 and 30 centimetres high.
Henbit grows by roadsides, in cropland, pastures, in waste areas, in gardens, and on lawns. It prefers light, dry soil and cultivated soil, and it originated in Eurasia and Northern Africa. It also grows in Australia, South America, western Asia, Greenland, and throughout Canada and the United States.
We used to have chickens long ago in California and I wish we would have had this growing around us to this abundance! It's very nutritious for them, and for us! Both Henbit and Purple Deadnettle contain large amounts of iron, and vitamins A and C, they are also rich in fiber, and fair amounts of vitamin K.
So before you unleash your ultimate power on this homely plant, try a little bit in your gathered wild salad after giving it a good clean. Think of it as you would it's friendly neighbor the Dandelion, there is so much more you can do. If even after that you don't like it, please just pick the plant out of the ground.