Thursday, April 3, 2014


Spring has arrived in Kansas. You drive along the highway and see new fields covered with a tiny purple flower. In town, many yards have this same purplish-lavender flower. When you take the dogs for a walk, the flower pokes up from the sidewalk and around the post that line the trail.


This small purple flower took me some time to identify. Perhaps it is too common and so is overlooked. Also, farmers and home owners think of it as a weed.

Henbit, March 2014

The henbit is a winter annual, meaning it germinates in autumn, lives through the winter, flowers in spring and produces seed and dies in the following season.

Henbit, gravel sidewalk

Henbit, near creek

Henbit, close up

The henbit is a member of the mint family and is identifiable by its scalloped leaf that forms a cup for the multiple flowering heads. The plant flowers early in March and continues until November in warmer settings. The flowers are purple to lavender in color. The petals of the flower are fused and form a deep corolla tube. The flower is long, hairy, and 2-lipped. The stem, if you look closely, is square. gives a recipe for its use as an edible plant.

There is a related species called Deadnettle Leaves.

Why some flowers have long tubular corollas.

The henbit has a long tubular corolla. The length from petal to stamen limits the number of insects which can pollinate the flower. Charles Darwin puzzled over this phenomenon and concluded that the evolution of flowers with deep tubular corollas was a "race" with insects who in turn evolved long noses and tongues to reach the nectar. The longer nosed/tongued insects avoided flowers with short corollas and so put these flowers at a disadvantage. But what is in it for the flower? First, the longer tubed flowers are at an advantage with specialized insects. Second, the tubes help to protect the stamens from the elements and so aid in propagation of the plant seeds.


1. Early Spring Weeds.

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