Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, Nettle Family (Uriticaceae)

Description: A 4-angled stem, covered with many bristly, stinging hairs, has slender, branching, feathery clusters of minute greenish flowers in the leaf axils. Flowers are unisexual, with either male or female on a given plant, or on the same plant with males in upper leaf axils, females lower. Flowers: about 1/12″ (2 mm) long; petals absent; calyx 4-parted; stamens 4. Leaves: 2-4″ (5-10 cm) long, opposite, ovate with heart-shaped bases, coarsely toothed, bearing stinging bristles. Height: 2-4′ (60-120 cm).

Flowering: June-September

Habitat: Waste places, roadsides.

Range: Throughout.

Comments: This Nettle should not be handled, as it contains an acid that can cause a severe, burning skin irritation. However the very young shoots and top leaves may be cooked and served as greens or used in soups and stews. The family and genus names come from the Latin uro (“I burn”). This plant is known to penetrate cotton and light pants with its poison. If contact is made with this plant small blisters will appear. To instantly remedy the burns smear mud or wet soil over blister. Do not remove the soil from the blister until the burning sensation is no longer felt.

All flower resources taken from: Niering, William A., Olmstead, Nancy C., National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Wildlowers. 1979, Chanticleer Press, INC.