Lamium maculatum (spotted dead-nettle)
The leaf markings of the spotted dead-nettle make it an attractive and popular choice for gardeners, and along with its large purple flowers easily distinguish it from the common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).
About this species
Lamium maculatum is a very variable species in the wild, where leaf size and shape, petiole (leaf stalk) length, hairiness and flower colour can be quite different even in the same population. The spotted leaves of this plant give it both its common and Latin names (maculatum = spotted, stained). In the wild the white leaf markings are more likely to be present during the winter. The leaf markings make spotted dead-nettle attractive to gardeners. There are now numerous cultivars with leaves much more decorative than those of their wild relatives, for example Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ and L. maculatum ‘Roseum’.
Geography & Distribution
Europe to China; introduced in Great Britain and New Zealand; found growing as a garden escape in Canada and the USA. Spotted dead-nettle has been found up to 2,000 m above sea level.
Lamium maculatum (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Spotted dead-nettle is a perennial herb with creeping stems (but with distal parts upright), and is mostly hairy. The leaves have petioles (leaf stalks) that are shorter than the blades. The leaf blades are heart-shaped to ovate or ovate-oblong, and the margins are usually coarsely scalloped to toothed; the upper and lower surfaces are hairy, the upper surface often with a white band and a few blotches either side, especially in winter. The calyx is tubular, with five narrowly triangular teeth. The corolla is purple, rarely white with dark purple markings. The upper lip is arched, and the lower lip is about as long as the upper lip and at right angles to it. The stamens (male parts) are held in the upper lip and bear orange pollen. The fruit comprises four brown nutlets (one-seeded sections, or mericarps, of the fruit).
Spotted dead-nettle makes an attractive addition to herbaceous borders or woodland gardens, and is a useful ground cover species.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Lamium maculatum are held in the Herbarium at Kew, where they are made available by appointment to researchers from around the world. The details, including an image, of one of these specimens can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Kew at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
In 2011, Kew partnered with The Times to produce a show garden to showcase the significance of plants to science and society.
The garden, designed by Chelsea gold medallist Marcus Barnett, featured species chosen to demonstrate both beauty and utility, including medicinal, commercial, and industrial uses to underline the fact that plants are invaluable to our everyday lives – without them, none of us could live on this planet; they produce our food, clothing and the air that we breathe.
Lamium maculatum is the wild relative of the cultivar Lamium maculatum 'Chequers', which was featured in Kew’s garden at Chelsea. A cultivar is a cultivated variant of a species, which is often called a ‘variety’ in the horticultural trade. Cultivars usually have characteristics that make them more desirable to growers, for example a carrot that is sweeter than its wild relative or a rose with less thorns than its wild counterpart.
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