Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle
Stinging Nettle. Urtica dioica.
Urticaceae, the nettle family.

Plant: Coarse, erect plant, 2'-4' tall, stem and at least underside of leaves covered with stinging hairs. Tiny green flowers form distinctive, elongated clusters that arise from the axils of coarsely toothed, opposite leaves. Perennial.
Flowers: Tiny, green, or occasionally pinkish, about 1/8", in distinctive, elongated and branching clusters arising from the leaf axils. Petals are absent, 4 sepals, 4 stamens. Flowers are unisexual, with male and female flowers on separate plants or on the same plant with male flowers above, and female ones below.
Leaves: Opposite, ovate to narrowly ovate, coarsely toothed, with rounded or heart-shaped base, a slender tip, and a short petiole. The underside of the leaves, and sometimes the top or edges as well bear the same stinging hairs found on the stem.
Fruit: Dry, seedlike.
Blooming: June-September
Habitat: Waste areas, roadsides, wood boundaries and weedy clearings.

Comments: Nettles are well known for their stinging hairs, which contain formic acid and other compounds, and produce an immediate effect. The rash usually fades quickly, but pain and irritation sometimes linger. The plant is native to both Europe and North America, and widely distributed. The young leaves can be cooked and eaten as a potherb, and are reputedly high in vitamins A, C and K. The plant has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine, for a variety of purposes, including relief of pain from rheumatism and arthritis. There may be some actual pharmacological basis for this use. The stalks contain long, strong fibers, that can be freed by retting and processing in the same manner as flax. These can be spun into line and made into a cloth similar to linen.

Where to find it: There is a large patch adjacent to the the cattails on the shore of the pond near the lodge, and a few other patches widely scattered about the park.