Stinging Nettle Identification
Common & Botanical Names
Stinging Nettle, Common Nettle
Stinging Nettle Locations
Barnyards, fence rows, thickets, waste areas, roadsides. Damp, rich soil is preferred.
Mature Nettle Colony
Young Stinging Nettle
Identifying Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is covered in tiny hairs, along with hollow hair-like structures called trichomes. The trichomes break off when touched by people or animals. The trichomes then inject a histamine that causes a burning and itching sensation with inflammation. When contacted, DO NOT ITCH EXPOSED AREAS. Itching will spread the histamines rapidly. Burning and itching sensations will dissipate in about 10 minutes, depending on severity of exposure. If prepared correctly, stinging nettles make excellent wild foods that are rich in vitamin A & C. Do not attempt to prepare nettles for eating unless experienced in the field of wild foods.
Stinging nettle is a native herbaceous perennial with widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which result in dense colonies. The green stems can grow from 2 to 7 feet tall with slight branching near the top.
Leaves: The leaves are opposite along the stem and measure from 1 - 6 inches long with serrated edges.
Flowers: The flowers are greenish without petals, and clustered in the leaf axils.
Fruit/Seeds: The seed pod contains a single seed per pod. The seeds are small, egg-shaped, slightly rough, and yellow to grayish-tan in color.
Roots: It has an extensive system of spreading rhizomes that grow new shoots.
Eradicating Stinging Nettle
The rhizomatic and stoloniferous characteristics make eradication very difficult. Frequent cultivation or tilling will prevent the perennial root system from growing.
Chemical application of herbicides can also eliminate current and future growth. Glyphosate herbicides are systemic and move throughout a plant. This is very effective against the spreading roots of stinging nettle. Always practice safe application of all herbicides to prevent non-target damage. Personal protective equipment must always be worn to protect the skin, eyes and respiratory system from poisoning.