Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Some Winter-flowering Nettles

Lamium purpureum, Red Dead-nettle, white flowered form.  Winter flower hunt.  Hayes Street Farm, 1 December 2014.
Lamium purpureum, Red Dead-nettle, white flowered form.   Hayes Street Farm, 1 December 2014.
In December my wild flower class takes a break, and the pupils look for any wild plants that are actually showing flowers in the middle of winter.  There are many more than you might think, though many of them are ragged and there might only be a few blooms. 

I live near a farm which must be one of the closest to London.  Hayes Street Farm is always worth a visit for winter flowers.  It is bounded by houses, a main road, and some woods, and has a few nice agricultural weeds of its own.  This plant is not far from the houses and might possibly have escaped from a garden, though I don;t think many people would plant it.  It's a white-flowered variety of the Red Dead-nettle.  Dead-nettles are so called because they have no sting.

Lamium album, White Dead-nettle.   Hayes, 1 December 2014
Lamium album, White Dead-nettle.   Hayes, 1 December 2014
For comparison, here is a White Dead-nettle, a much more robust plant.  You can see that the leaves are shaped differently and have more pointed serrations.  The calyx that surrounds the flowers is larger and more spiky.  This looks a lot like the common Stinging Nettle, except for the flowers.  It's worth knowing the difference.  Both grow in waste ground and at roadsides as well as in the country.

Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle.  Hayes, 2 December 2012.
Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle.  Hayes, 2 December 2012.
Here are some Stinging Nettle flowers I photographed in 2012.  The leaves are similar but the flowers are totally different.  This has a couple of common relatives, as well as another harmless lookalike called Gypsywort that grows by water.  One of the relatives has an even nastier sting:

Urtica urens, Small Nettle,.  Hayes Street Farm, 17 December 2013.
Urtica urens, Small Nettle,.  Hayes Street Farm, 17 December 2013.
The Small Nettle.  Hayes Street Farm has a field full of it this year.  The flowers are similar to those of the Stinging Nettle, but the clusters are smaller.  In fact the whole plant is smaller.  The leaves are more rounded, and look at those stinging hairs!

Lycopus europaeus, Gypsywort.  Leybourne Lakes Country Park.  27 July 2012.
Lycopus europaeus, Gypsywort.  Leybourne Lakes Country Park.  27 July 2012.
Just for comparison, here is the harmless Gypsywort, which you are not likely to see in flower in December.
It has small clusters of white flowers at the stem nodes.

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