White Dead Nettle is quite similar vegetatively to Stinging Nettle and many people might be a bit wary about touching the leaves. However the leaves are somewhat greener and softer in appearance. They can infact be eaten raw and along with stinging nettle the leaves can be boiled like spinach and used in soups etc. I have tried stinging nettle and to be honest it was not that good, the more ingredients you added to it like chicken stock, cream, pepper and so on then the better it got.
Of course once in flower they are easily distinguished…a bit like the stoat and the weasel! Sorry. The dead nettle flowers are quite attractive, all be it a bit small.They are of course white but do have little brown marks/lines at the back of the flower (honey guides) visible on close inspection. Note there is a bit of Cleavers and some Willow Herb also in the photo.
The flowers are arranged in whorls each made up of about 10 individual flowers and they flower from May throughout the summer. The species is quite common and found in a variety of habitats, not just woodland. They are often part of the hedgerow flora. and can be found in open meadow situations as well.
Local names include White archangel, Helmet-flower and Adam-and-eve-in-the-bower. The latter is because you can turn the flower upside-down and beneath the white upper lid of the corolla black and gold stamens lie side by side like two human figures, Adam and Eve. Evidently you can get individuals which have slightly pink flowers but I have not come across any.
The flowers produce a significant amount of nectar but it is located well down inside the flower so only large insects with long tongues can reach it. Thus it is commonly visited by the larger Bumble bees. Once pollinated it will produce 4 small seeds (nutlets) per flower. There is no special dispersal mechanism, they just fall out when ripe. The plant also produces horizontally growing rhizomes like its close relative the Stinging nettle, but they are not quite so rampant as the stinging nettle’s, but if pieces get broken off and moved then they can easily root and produce a new colony somewhere else.
Click to see other flowers from the Wye valley woodlands