Red hemp-nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia)

Red hemp-nettle in flower
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Red hemp-nettle fact file

Red hemp-nettle description

GenusGaleopsis (1)

Red hemp-nettle is covered in soft hairs, and has narrow, weakly toothed leaves which occur in opposite pairs on the stem (4). It produces flowers in small whorls on the stem, which are dark red or pinkish in colour with yellow flecks on the lower lip (4).

Height: 10-80 cm (2)

Red hemp-nettle biology

Red hemp-nettle is a summer annual that typically germinates during spring (3) and flowers from July to October (4). It is pollinated by bees (2).


Red hemp-nettle range

Formerly widespread throughout lowland England, Wales and eastern Scotland, this plant suffered a severe decline in range after 1930 (5). It is now scarce in Great Britain, and mainly occurs in central southern England (5). This species is considered by some to be a native in some parts of Britain where it occurs in natural habitats such as coastal shingle or limestone screes, and by others as an ancient introduction (5). It is rare in north-western Europe, and also occurs in central, western and southern Europe, reaching east to Bulgaria and Poland (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Red hemp-nettle habitat

Once a locally common weed of arable land, it is now rarely seen. It occurs on roadsides, tracks, waste ground, spoil heaps, limestone scree and limestone pavements, and occasionally grows on sand and shingle on the coasts of southern England and Wales (3) (5). The species shows a preference for sunny locations with fairly open vegetation and free-draining calcareous soils (3) (5).


Red hemp-nettle status

Classified as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain (3).


Red hemp-nettle threats

Most of the factors affecting this species involve changes in agricultural practices, including the use of chemical herbicides and fertilisers, sowing crops in autumn before red-hemp nettle has a chance to set seed, and the introduction of crops that have very high productivity (3). Some shingle sites are threatened by coastal development (2).


Red hemp-nettle conservation

This species is one of 15 arable plants listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority list (6). The Species Action Plan aims to enhance the current range by restoring populations to eight former sites by 2003, and set up ex-situ facilities, which will provide a source for potential reintroductions and preserve the genetic variation of this species (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:



Information authenticated by Tim Rich of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.



Lives or grows for just one year.
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
Measures to conserve a species or habitat that occur outside of the natural range of the species. E.g. in zoos or botanical gardens.
In plants, petal or petals that form a lobe.
In animals, the spiral or convolutions in the shell of a snail. In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (October, 2002)
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. (1961) Flora of the British Isles 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. UK BAP Species Action Plan (March, 2002)
  4. Press, B. and Gibbons, B. (1993) Photographic field guide: wild flowers of Britain and Europe. New Holland Ltd., London.
  5. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, London.
  6. English Nature press release (March, 2002)

Image credit

Red hemp-nettle in flower  
Red hemp-nettle in flower

© John Mason /

Ardea wildlife pets environment
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