This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Surely, the reader says, we know a nettle when we see it, and certainly know it when we touch it, without needing description or figure. Perhaps so, but the average rambler, for whom this book is primarily intended, would certainly pass Campanula trachelium as a nettle if he encountered it before it flowered; and though he may know a nettle by being stung, he -cannot in that simple manner determine the species, for there are three kinds occurring in England. We will, however, meet the objection so far that we will not waste many words in a general description, but deal more with the points of difference between the species. All have a liberal supply of the stinging hairs, and green flowers of two kinds. The staminate flowers consist of a four-parted perianth enclosing four stamens with kidney-shaped anthers. Pistillate flowers consist of a perianth and a single carpel, surmounted by a brush-like stigma. The name of the genus is from the Latin uro, to burn, in reference to the sensation produced by the stings.
I. The Great Nettle (Urtica dioica), is the species figured. It is our largest native nettle, and attains the height of 4 or 5 feet, the stem rising from a branching perennial rootstock which throws out runners, The large leaves are saw-edged, and apart from the stinging hairs are downy. Flower spikes given off in pairs, each spike consisting of either staminate or pistillate flowers only; the pistillate more dense than the others. Hedgebanks chiefly. Flowering from June to September.
II. Roman Nettle (U. pilulifera). Not so large. An annual; leaves smooth but for the stinging hairs, margin entire or toothed. Male flowers in panicles,female gathered in heads. Flowers larger than in dioica. Under walls and among rubbish, near habitations, chiefly in the Eastern counties, and near the sea. June to August.
III. Small Nettle (U. urens). The familiar annual plant of fields and wastes. Leaves coarsely toothed, smooth but for stinging hairs. Panicles containing flowers of both sexes; few flowered. Flowers June to September.
Great Stinging Nettle.
- Urticaceae. -