Urtica urens L.


Urticaceae (Nettle Family)




Dwarf Nettle

                                          March Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Erect annual, simple or branched from the base, glabrous except for the stinging hairs, 1-5 dm. high; lvs. ovate, glabrous, coarsely laciniate-serrate, the blades 1.5-3 cm. long; petioles 1-2 cm. long; stipules 1 mm. long; fl. clusters scarcely 1 cm. long, staminate and pistillate fls. mixed in the same cluster; calyx almost 2 mm. long; ak. ca. 2 mm. long, +/- yellow, deltate.


Habitat:  Garden and orchard weed; natur. from Europe.  January-April.


Name:  The ancient Latin name from urere, to burn.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 847).  Latin, urens, stinging.  (Jaeger 276).


General:  Occasional in the study area.  Common on the Castaways Bluffs, photographed there. On the bluff below Eastbluff North, this plant has become very common, covering large areas. (my comments).       Supposed to be tasteful, cooking removes the formic acid in the sting.  Best steamed or boiled.  (Clarke 161).       The nettle has many valuable characteristics.  In Scotland and in parts of Europe the nettle was treated much like flax, the fibers making a cloth similar to linen.  In World War I, with cotton imports cut off, the Germans utilized nettles for weaving.  It is notable, that the poisonous property of the hair disappears with either cooking or drying.  (Coon 217).       Nettle poison is the same as the poison in ant stings.  As the plant wilts, the poison is reduced and the sting is not so powerful.  The Indians, who would rot away the pulp by burying the plant in wet areas, used the fibers.  (lecture by Charlotte Clarke, author of Useful and Edible Plants of California, April 1987).       If you have been stung by a nettle, Urtica spp., you can cure it by rubbing the nettle's own root on the sting.  We tried it, and there is some truth to the old belief.  Although the sting remained for a short time it faded very rapidly.  (Fielder 48).        Urtica species have been known to cause hay fever and asthma in man.  (Fuller 381).       The seeds of Urtica spp., because of the oils and traces of formic acid, make a good scalp conditioner and growth stimulant to the hair.  One teaspoon is soaked in a cup of hot water until lukewarm, the teas used as a final rinse after shampooing.  The fresh leaves can be boiled in a slightly larger volume of salted water for ten minutes and the tea used to curdle milk in the making of cheese.  (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 114).        The larvae of the Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui, feed on mallow, lupine, thistle and nettle.  (No author, sbnature, A Journal of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Spring 2004/ Vol. 2 No. 1, 6-8).


Text Ref:  Abrams, Vol. I 525; Hickman, Ed. 1083; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 847; Robbins et al. 128.

Photo Ref:  Mar 1 85 # 19,20.

Identity: by F. Roberts.

First found:  March 1985.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 292.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 10/14/04.


                                             March Photo