This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
1. Nettle (Urtica dioica, L.). 2. Black Bryony ( Tamils communis, L.). 3. Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, L.).
Photo. B. Hanley - Nettle (urtica Dioica, L.)
The flowers are in axillary panicled spikes, in pairs, the males in loose panicles, the females dense, bent back. The fruit is small, with a flat border. It is 2-4 ft. in height. Flowers are to be met with between July and September. The plant is perennial, propagated by cuttings.
The plant is dicecious (hence dioica) or unisexual. The stamens are elastic; in bud they are curled inwards. The anthers, which are borne on kidney-shaped anther-stalks, open by the coiling of the stalks in bud and the opening of the calyx, and when they uncoil they spring out and disperse the pollen in a small cloud. They open in the sun, and the discharge of pollen goes on for half an hour. The flowers are wind-pollinated.
The fruit is small, and when ripe falls to the ground or is blown away by the wind.
Addicted to a sand soil, the Nettle is a sand-loving plant.
The first stage of a fungus, Puccinia caricis, grows on this, the second on a sedge. Uromyces urticce, Peronospora urticce, also grow on it. It is infested by Dodder (Cuscuta europcea), and galled by Cecidomyia urticce. Several beetles, Brachypterus urticce, Thyamis exoleta, Demetrius atricapillus, Halyzia punctata, Meligethes lumbaris, Elater sanguinolentus, Longitarsus luridus, Crepidodera ferruginea; the Lepidoptera, Small Tortoise Shell (Vanessa urticce), Red Admiral (V. ata/anta), Peacock (V. to), Comma (Grapta c-album), Ghost Swift (Hepialus humuli), Reddish Buff (Phragmatobia caliginosa), Light Spectacle (Abrostola urticce), Burnished Brass (P/usia chrysitis), Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula), Botys verticalis, B. urticata, Choreutis fabriciana, etc.; Heteroptera, Sehirus bicolor, Heterogaster urticce, Scolopostethus affinis, Nabis rugosus, Lygus pabulinus, Pceciloscytus gyllenhalii, Capsus laniarius', and the Homoptera, Eupteryx urticce, E. auratus, Trioza urticce, feed upon it.
Urtica, Pliny, is from the Latin uro, I burn, and the second Latin name refers to its dicecious character.
This plant is called Naughty Man's Plaything, Nettle, Stinging Nettle, Scaddie, Stingy Nettle, Tinging Nettle.
Nettles are thrown on the fire to guard against lightning. It is called Devil's Apron because associated with the evil one, and it was believed it could drive away evil spirits. There is a proverb for those who in spite of every kindness are themselves the reverse: " He that handles a nettle tenderly is soonest stung ". Peasants use nettle tea as a remedy for nettle-rash, and the tops cut in June for a nettle broth. When carried about the person it was said to drive away fear, and so worn in time of danger.
The tops are cut and used as a pot-herb as spinach. This plant was used in religious festivals, preventing disease for a year, so it was thought. When salted it will curdle milk. The stems are fibrous as well as the root, and have been used for hemp to make ropes and paper. Whipping with nettles was practised for lethargy, rheumatic pains, palsy. The Nettle is refused by cattle.
Essential Specific Characters: 279. Urtica dioica, L. - Stem erect, tall, leaves opposite, cordate, serrate, plant dioecious, male flowers in lax panicles, female crowded, seeds ovate.