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Creeping Charlie or Henbit?

April 6, 2012

Here is a common question from this spring. It comes from the ISU answer line specialist, Richard Jauron and it originated from a county extension office in central Iowa.

The question is, "is this creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)"? The answer is no, even though the leaves look like creeping Charlie. The pictures are of henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). Both are in the mint family (Lamiaceae) and both have square stems, but the henbit grows upright and does not spread like creeping Charlie.

The reason that we see so much henbit in the spring is that it is a winter annual. It germinates in the fall, often after herbicides have been applied. It then appears early in the spring. It is one of the reasons that I prefer late fall treatments with broadleaf herbicides, in October and even November over earlier treatments.

You can treat for it in the spring, but remember that your other landscape species are very susceptible to broadleaf weed controls at this time of year.

Pictures courtesy of Richard Jauron.


Henbit Doing Very Well In Iowa This Year

May 4, 2016

Henbit (Lamiium amplexicaule) is having a very good year in Iowa this spring.  This species is a winter annual that germinates in the fall.  In the spring, it blooms with a purplish flower.  This spring I am seeing it everywhere, even though there are years were I do not see it at all.  It looks a little like Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacia).  Both species are mints and have a square stem.  The flower of Ground Ivy is similar to henbit, but it is usually more of a pinkish color.  Ground Ivy has runners and roots from the stems.  Henbit grows more upright and does not root along the stems. Ground Ivy has a strong mint odor, and Henbit lacks the strong odor.  Henbit is much easier to control than Ground Ivy.  Fall treatments of herbicides will completely eliminate Henbit, but the application has to be late enough in the fall that germination has occurred.  In the spring, it is a winter annual and will die as soon as summer begins.  Henbit is also quite susceptible to most broadleaf herbicides in the spring.


Richard Jauron, the answer line person in our department, recently put up a blog on Ground Ivy, it is at


The first picture was taken at the horticulture research station at turf research in late April. This is one of the most extensive areas of Henbit that I have ever seen at the research area.  The other 2 pictures show close ups of the stem and flowers.  Notice particularly how the upper leaves are joined to the stem.  This is different from Ground Ivy that generally has petioles on the upper leaves.