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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

10. Urticaceae, the Nettle Family

2. Urtica L. -- Nettle

1. Urtica dioica L. -- Stinging nettle


Monoecious or dioecious, stout perennial 8-20 dm tall, often forming dense patches by rhizomes, sparsely to moderately clothed with stinging hairs, otherwise glabrous or sparsely to densely puberulent, the stems usually simple. Leaf blades ovate to lanceolate, often conduplicate, mostly 5-15 cm long, 2-8 cm wide, puncticulate with cystoliths when dried, acute to acuminate, coarsely serrate, cordate to truncate or rounded at the base; petioles mostly 1-6 cm long; stipules linear-lanceolate, 5-15 mm long. Flower clusters branched and spreading, usually surpassing the subtending petioles, the clusters all of one sex or some male and some female, the female clusters usually above the male when both are present. Achenes tan, ovate, 1-1.2(1.5) mm long, ca. 1/2 as wide, enclosed by the inner pair of sepals which are 1-1.5 mm long, the outer pair ca. 1/2 as long. Jun--Sep. Moist woods, thickets, ditches, shores, stream banks and disturbed areas; common; (Labr. to AK, s through most of the U.S. and Mex.; also S.Amer. and Eurasia). U. procera Muhl.

American U. dioica is designated subsp. gracilis (Ait.) Seland. The European U. dioica subsp. dioica differs in chromosome number and is typically dioecious, whereas subsp. gracilis is predominantly monoecious. Although subsp. dioica has been naturalized in e U.S., it has not been detected in our range.

The wood nettle, Laportea canadensis (L.) Wedd., is often abundant in moist woods in the eastern and central parts of our area. This plant also has stinging hairs but differs from stinging nettle in its shorter stature; broader, alternately arranged leaves; and terminal inflorescence.
GIF-Urtica dioica GIF- Distribution Map

Map key


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