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Stinging nettle

By: Garden Gate staff
If you've ever walked along a wooded path, you've probably encountered stinging nettle. This perennial weed, with bright- to dark-green leaves, can grow to 3 to 6 ft. high.

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Stinging nettle Urtica dioica

IDENTIFICATION — If you’ve ever walked along a wooded path, you’ve probably encountered stinging nettle. This perennial weed, with bright- to dark-green leaves, can grow to 3 to 6 ft. high. The square stems are covered with fine hairs, which break and release a sap when you brush against the plant. If the sap gets on your skin, it causes a stinging feeling that lasts for a few minutes or longer, depending on how sensitive you are. From May to October, pale green flowers open along the stem between the leaves.

FAVORITE CONDITIONS — You’ll find stinging nettle in damp, fertile, shady locations. In the wild, it grows well along stream banks and at the edge of wooded areas. But it’ll also tolerate more sunny spots, such as an open field or roadside. In the garden, stinging nettle may pop up on bare soil, too.

CONTROL — Stinging nettle spreads by seed and by rhizomes, which allow it to colonize an area quickly. To control small patches or individual plants, pull them by hand, but be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves so you don’t get “stung.” If you’re dealing with a large colony of plants, try mowing them off and using a garden fork to remove the roots. Herbicides, such as glyphosate or 2,4-D, are also effective and spraying them keeps you from coming in contact with the plant.

Published: Jan. 26, 2010
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