Common Names: Great stinging
Nettle, Common Nettle
Parts Used: roots and leaves
This plant is a very interesting plant. When you look at it, it looks like an ordinary, hairy weed with attractive little flowers. It can be a very dangerous plant, however, because when you touch it with your bare skin, you will get a terrible sting, which is very painful. When you get this sting it can be so bad that you might need treatment for it. If it is a minor sting and you get home quick enough, you can put some anesthetic cream on it. The sting feels very much like a bee sting and can last for hours or days. The stinging sensation is caused by formic acid which covers the tiny hairs of the plant.
The stinging nettle grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet. The slender stems are four-sided. It has a creeping, stretching root from which new shoots emerge. The dull, dark green leaves grow opposite each other on the stem. They are thin and sort of egg-shaped with a toothed and tapered end and covered with stinging hairs. They are 2 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The hairs on the leaves are particularly painful. They loose their stinging qualities when they are dried.
When the plant flowers in the summer, it has tiny greenish or greenish-white flowers that hang down in clusters just above where the leaves attach to the stem. It flowers from June to September. It reproduces through seeds and a creeping rootstock.
Believe it or not, stinging nettle can be very useful too. It has been used as a medicine in Europe for over 2,000 years. It can be turned into a tea made from the leaves and stems. This tea has been used to stop bleeding. Stinging nettle seems to have a lot of medical uses, but the nettle root is known to be a diuretic and to give relief from prostate problems.
Stinging nettle can be found growing in Europe and the United States. It can grow up to 3 feet tall in moist, shady spots, in flood plains, woodlands and along streams and river banks. This plant can be found growing in the short grass prairie in North America, but it is common all over the world.
by Celeste G. 2000.
"The Grassland Biome", http://mbgnet.mobot.org/sets/grasslnd/plants/5.html, (6/4/00).
"Nettles", http://www.smartbasic.com/cat.herbs/nettles.c.html, (7/29/00).