Urtica dioica ssp. holosericea (Nutt.) Thorne


=Urtica holosericea


=Urtica gracilis var. holosericea


Urticaceae (Nettle Family)




Creek Nettle


Hoary Nettle



                               June Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Perennial from underground rootstocks, the stems rather stout and simple, 1-2.5 m. tall, bristly, and also densely fine-pubescent; stems and lower lf. surface with moderate to dense nonstinging hairs; lvs. lanceolate to narrow-ovate, 5-12 cm. long, coarsely serrate, densely soft-pubescent and grayish beneath, greener above, attenuate at apex, on petioles 1-4.5 cm. long; stipules narrow-oblong, 5-10 mm. long; male clusters rather loose, almost as long as the lvs.; female denser and shorter; fls. ca. 1 mm. long; ak. broadly ovate, smooth.       There is no description as to which hairs of this species are stinging.  Robbins, et al.  says the stems of U. urens have sparse stinging hairs and that the leaves bear scattered stinging hairs.  (my comments).


Habitat:  Low damp places, below 9000 ft., many Plant Communities; cismontane Calif.; to Wash., Ida.; occasional on desert edge; Santa Catalina and Santa Cruz Ids.  Bloom period not listed in Munz.  Bloom photographed in June. (my comments)


Name:  Latin, urere, to burn.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 847).  Refers to the stinging hairs.  (Hickman, Ed. 1083).  Greek, holos, whole, and Latin, ser, silk.  (Jaeger 119,236).  I do not see the relationship between the plant and the species name holosericea unless it refers to the abundant pubescence on the stems and leaves. (my comment).  Dioica, means "two dwellings", referring to the fact that the male and female flowers are usually on separate plants.  (Hatfield 132).


General:  Common in the study area.  Common in big canyon and along Back Bay Dr. at the northerly end of Eastbluff.  Photographed at the northerly end of Eastbluff.  (my comments).      Nettle leaves were used by Indians for a raw vegetable or boiled as greens.  Stem fibres were used to make bowstrings and in basket making.  Nettles were applied to various aching areas such as a rheumatic leg or arm.   Boiled roots were used in early Europe to obtain a yellow dye.  Nettle contains formic acid and this is the stinging material-the same as some ants.  Partly due to its high nitrogen content, the nettle is an active decomposer and humus maker and if often used as a catalyst to ferment compost heaps by commercial houses that sell purely organic fertilizer.  Nettle plants are reportedly used as a food source by the Brown Towhee. (Clarke 161).       The  plant  has

been used as a treatment for rheumatism by using bundles of fresh nettles as whips to beat the affected part; the pain of the nettles and possibly the acid injections, covering up, if not curing the rheumatism.  For many years, the seeds were used to treat consumption.  (Coon 217).      Fibres of the genus were used by the Gabrielanos to make string and cordage.  The fibre strands were rolled on the thigh.  Both sexes joined in this occupation.  The strings were rolled into two and four ply, possibly 3 ply as well and rope was formed of several strands of two-ply string.  Gabrielanos would sting themselves, particularly on the eyelids before a hunt for large game.  A sort of ritual reminder to the men that they really possess the power and courage to carry out the expedition with success. (Johnston 34-35).      This nettle's flowers are the only food of the caterpillars of the lovely peacock butterfly and the equally exquisite tortoise shell butterfly.  A complete plant-food liquid can be made by soaking a sheaf of nettles in a vessel of rainwater for two or three weeks.  At the end of that time, the water will contain all the plant's virtues.  A liquid fertilizer made from nettles, either fresh or dried, is not only a good folia feed, but also an effective spray against mildew, black fly, aphis, and plant lice.  When it becomes necessary to handle these nettles, grasp the hairs in such a way that they are pressed back into the stem.  Then the plant will not be able to sting you.  Although the stinging nettle is common from Maine to Minnesota, and as far south as Missouri, Americans seldom eat them.  In Europe, however, they have been used for food and drink for centuries.  So valued were they as a potherb and vegetable and for the tingling flavor they add to homemade teas, wines, and beers-that they were at one time cultivated in most European gardens.  (Hatfield 132-136).      The Cahuilla, Indians of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto, and San Bernardino Mountains, used U. holosericea for "stiff feet".  Nettles were placed on the feet and wrapped in cloth.  Nettle fibre was used to make bowstrings and in basket making. (Bean and Saubel 143).      Delfina Cuero, a Kumeyaay or Southern Diegueno Indian, made the following comments about Urtica holosericea in her autobiography:  "Formerly we gathered and boiled for greens.  We also cooked a lot to a real strong liquid and bathed in it when we got into poison oak, and also for skin diseases."  Shipek 98).       Astringent and diuretic.  The tea can be used for internal bleeding, such as excessive menstruation, nosebleeds, and capillary bleeding from heavy coughing and vomiting.  (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 114).      Nettle tea is one of the oldest countryside beverages of England, believed to have been introduced by the Roman invaders.  (Meyer 173).     Presumably Meyer is referring to species from the family Urticaceae, as he gives no Latin name.  (my comment).        Nettle tea is an excellent hair tonic and will bring back the natural color of the hair.  Use as the last rinse when shampooing.  (Kloss 289).       Urtica dioica (nettle roots).  Also known as stinging nettle, has been studied for its therapeutic effect on "prostatic ailments" for quite some time.  Japanese pharmacologists suggested that a "steroid in the stinging nettle roots" may "suppress prostate-cell metabolism and growth."  In a study conducted by Tadeusz Krezeski et al (1993), 134 participants reported a significant decrease in frequent night urinations and in residual urine.  The subjects took 600 mg/day of Urtica dioica root extract, combined with 50 mg/day of Pygeum africanum bark extract.  (Yutsis, Pavel, M.D. "The Tiny Prostate Can Cause Big Trouble", Journal of Longevity Research, Vol. 3 No. 3, 1997 pp. 15,16).       Some species are capable of providing a good strong white linen.  (James 52).       The sting from stinging nettle, ants and bees is acidic.  You can often relieve the pain by quickly applying an alkaline substance to the area involved.  Some of the more readily available alkaline compounds are bicarbonate of soda and soap. Wasp stings are alkaline in nature.  (Williams, David G, “Insect Stings—Acidic or Alkaline?”  Alternatives for the Health-Conscious Individual Volume 8, No 18 December 2000 p.143).       In a double blind study published in Planta Medica, people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) who were given a freeze-dried stinging nettle extract for one week noticed a much greater improvement in symptoms than those who were given a placebo.  Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, seems to work by blocking the formation of inflammatory chemicals, likely due to the histamine found in its leaves. Author Unknown, “Itch Weed Brings Relief” Health & Healing Volume 11, No. 10, p4. October 2001.        About 30 species in wide distribution.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 847).  


Text Ref:  Abrams, Vol. I 524; Hickman, Ed. 1083; Munz, Calif. Flora 920; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 847; Robbins et al. 128.

Photo Ref:  June 7 83 # 8A,9A,10A.

Identity: by R. De Ruff.

First Found: June 1983.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 291.

No plant specimen.

Last edit 11/13/04


.                      June Photo                                               June Photo