I first heard about sea nettles when my family moved to the Eastern Shore when I was almost 10 years old. I was warned to look out for the jellyfish when swimming or wading in the nearby waters to avoid getting stung.

I was reminded of that advisory last week when I was out gathering news and someone mentioned there were deadnettles in my yard.

I pictured the lawn full of the clear jelly slime left belly up. I reasoned that they swam into the newly formed ponds about my property caused by all the rain we had. They must have gotten stuck in the field. I grimaced at the thought of trying to clean up what would be comparable to the fish kill I once saw at Quinby Harbor. 

Would they sting me while I gathered them? Ugh.

But I was wrong. That’s not what is blanketing the place. I was instead being told about the plant with the purple flowers that seem to be spreading everywhere in both Accomack and Northampton counties. They are purple deadnettles with the scientific name of Lamium purpureum or Greek for “the devouring purple monster.”

As a member of the mint family, the deadnettles are supposed to be medicinal. But if you pick a couple, as I did so I could take a photo up close, you can catch the fragrance, which in my opinion stinks. I’m NOT recommending that it be consumed although several websites did just that.

www.ediblewildfood.com said the leaves can be put in salads or added to smoothies.

www.naturallivingideas.com recommended putting the leaves in soup and making tea with them. “Generally, you can use it just like you would any other green. The plant can also be finely minced and used as a garnish like you would an herb … Purple deadnettle is highly nutritious. It’s abundant in vitamins, particularly Vitamin C, along with iron and fiber, while the oil in its seeds is packed with powerful antioxidants.”

The site suggested the leaves be placed on wounds or cuts to stop bleeding. “Research published in 2007 in the Hacettepe University Journal of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Turkey, found it to be effective against the E. coli bacteria and others too. Its anti-inflammatory properties were documented in 2008 research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.”

In the 17th century, “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Natural Remedies for Ancient Ills,” listed the leaves as making the “head merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits, is good against quartan agues, stancheth bleeding at mouth and nose, if it be stamped and applied to the nape of the neck; the herb also bruised, and with some salt and vinegar, and hog grease, laid upon a hard tumour or swelling, or that vulgarly called the king’s evil, do help to dissolve or discuss them; and being in like manner applied, doth much allay the pains, and give ease to the gout, sciatica, and other pains of the joints and sinews. It is also very effectual to heal green wounds, and old ulcers; also to stay their fretting, gnawing and spreading. It draweth forth splinters, and such like things gotten into the flesh, and is very good against bruises and burnings.”

So, my yard is filled with the wonder drug that also is also supposed to be loved by bees. But, in my yard, the bees prefer cherry blossoms, just like me. Yippee!

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