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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Urtica dioica L.)

Stinging nettle

NETTLE FAMILY (Urticaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A tall, slender, tough-stemmed perennial herb growing to 2 m. in height. The stems are square and coarse. Leaves are opposite, stalked, heart-shaped at the base, serrate and 5-15 cm. long. Glassy stinging hairs are present on the stem and/or leaves. Greenish flowers emerge from the leaf axils. Fruit is a nutlet 1.5 mm. long. In flower from June to September.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Stinging nettle is found in floodplain forests, along streambanks, and on dredged spoils. It is a frequent invader of disturbed or drained organic soils of inland fresh meadows, especially after fires. Stinging nettle can also occur in pastured upland woods. Gleason and Cronquist (1991) identify the native variety as U. dioica var. procera (Muhl.) Wedd., while the European variety is U. dioica var. dioica. A number of synonyms are applied by other authorities including U. gracilis Ait., U. procera Muhl. and U. dioica ssp. gracilis (Ait.) Selander. Skin contact with the stinging hairs of this species can be very irritating.

SOURCE: Fernald (1970); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Voss (1985); Swink and Wilhelm (1994); and Great Plains Flora Association (1991).

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