IN NATURE there are lots of things which look like other things, even if they’re not closely related.

This can arise when different species evolve almost identical features in response to similar environmental pressures.

Sometimes one or more species will derive a distinct evolutionary advantage from this similarity.

The classic example of this is the number of hoverfly species that resemble wasps.

Hoverflies are completely harmless, lacking any sting, but they mimic wasps in colour and shape in order to deter predators.

Plants can also benefit from mimicry and one particular family of wildflowers demonstrates this.

The Lamiaceae (or Labiates, if you’re of a certain age) are a group represented by several species around the county.

They include common species such as bugle and assorted mints, and are mostly downy plants, often aromatic and characterised by having square stems.

However, it’s the leaves which are of interest to us at the moment.

Stinging nettles belong to the family Urticaceae and are a common sight in the countryside, but look closely and you might spot some imposters lurking in there.

The leaves of the white dead-nettle look almost identical to those of the nettle, but lack the sting (hence the ‘dead’ bit in the name).

However, the similarity deters animals such as rabbits from grazing the dead-nettles.

If the plants are in flower they are easy enough to tell apart – white dead-nettles have large, white flowers whilst stinging nettles have clusters of tiny greenish-white flowers.

Without these clues it can be almost impossible to separate the two.

White dead-nettle is a valuable plant for bees and other pollinators.

The lower lip of the flower forms a landing pad for incoming insects and each flower holds a small drop of nectar at its base – attractive to both pollinators and small children in the know.

Hedge woundwort is another plant whose leaves are remarkably similar to those of the stinging nettle, and it also reaps the benefit of fooling grazing animals.

Again, the flowers are very different, forming loose spikes of red-purple blooms. It’s an attractive plant, but it has a trick up its sleeve.

Try crushing a leaf (if you’re confident it’s not a nettle of course) – it will give off a smell which has been described as “powerfully aromatic and profoundly disgusting” (although a minority of people actually like it). Be warned, though – the smell will stay on your hands for some time.

As the name suggests, this plant was often used by herbalists to treat wounds.

It is said to alleviate bleeding and to have antiseptic qualities, as well as being able to treat inflammation and pain.

Call me cynical but I think a lot of this is based around the idea that something that smells that bad has to be good for you somehow.

Hedge woundwort has a close relative found in marshy areas, known imaginatively as marsh woundwort.

It has slightly longer and thinner leaves, making it less nettle-like, and is less smelly. The two woundwort species readily hybridise and the intermediate can be commonly found.

Despite being relatively common (to the extent that some are regarded as weeds) the Lamiaceae are a valuable part of our grasslands.

In addition to their popularity with bees, species like the woundworts also host other invertebrates such as shield bugs.

They’re also really nice to look at.