Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) growing along the upper Truckee River, July 2011. Photo: K.Fitzgerald.
- Stems and leaves covered in tiny stinging hairs.
- Leaves: Opposite arrangement, toothed edges.
- Flowers: Green or brownish-colored clusters at base of leaves. June-August.
- 3-7 feet tall
The best way to identify stinging nettle is to learn what it looks like. The other way to identify stinging nettle is to walk into a patch of it. The leaves and stems of the nettle are covered in tiny hairs, which are sharp enough to penetrate human skin and filled with a chemical irritant (Vizgirdas & Vizgirdas 2006). The stinging and burning sensation that follows is harmless, although annoying.
Along the Truckee River, stinging nettle can be found growing in dense, scattered patches. New leaves begin growing during late winter (February). Stinging nettle tends to do well in wet areas, where it can grow to be seven feet tall (Blackwell 2006).
The young leaves and stems of stinging nettle are edible, and high in Vitamins A, C and D. Use gloves to handle, and boil them to reduce stinging to your mouth. Use of older leaves and stems is not recommended – stems get fibrous and stringy as they age, and leaves contain a component that can irritate the kidneys (Vizgirdas & Vizgirdas 2006).
References & Links
Blackwell, L. (2006). Great Basin wildflowers: A field guide to common wildflowers of the high deserts of Nevada, Utah, and Oregon. Guilford, Conn.: Falcon Guide.
Vizgirdas, R. S., & Rey-Visgirdas, E. M. 2006. Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press.