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HomeSurvivalFoodEdible Plants

Nettles

There are several species of nettles. This page only shows Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis). For contrast, two similar plants are shown at the bottom that are often confused with these species: Horse Balm (Collinsonia canadensis) and False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica).

Nettles may also be used to make cordage - See the Cordage section of this website.

PLEASE NOTE that Stinging Nettle is considered by some to be an invasive alien plant. There are several varieties, hard to tell apart. Some are alien to North America, and some are considered native.

Preparation:
Boil or steam the younger plants like any fresh vegetable. Boiling/steaming gets rid of the "sting".

 

Stinging Nettle
(Urtica dioica)

 

A typical Stinging Nettle plant in spring.

Note the fine hairs along the stem. These are what sting when you touch them.

 

The leaf.

 

Flowers. These are very distinctive.

 

Wood Nettle
(Laportea canadensis)

Wood Nettle also has stinging hairs along its stem. But they don't seem to be as virulent as those of Stinging Nettle.

 

 

Wood Nettle flowers. Note that some flowers are above the top leaves, and others are below.

 

A close-up of the Wood Nettle stem, showing the stinging hairs. Also shows the start of a flower stalk (raceme).

 

A Wood Nettle leaf.
 

A nice patch of Wood Nettles

 

 


 

False Nettle
(Boehmeria cylindrica)

 

This plant is easily confused with Stinging Nettle. However, it doesn't have any stinging hairs along its stem.

 

The flowers of False Nettle are different. They are in tight clumps, instead of loosely spread out along arching thin stems like Stinging Nettle.

Note also the very long leave stems.

 

 

Horse Balm
(Collinsonia canadensis)

 
This plant is most often misidentified as Wood Nettle. The main differences are that Horse Balm has no stinging hairs, and the flowers are all above the top leaves, and are very different from those of Wood Nettle. Note the long leaf stalks.
 

 

A few Horse Balm plants in the woods. These were in a wet area.

 

A top view.

 

Horse Balm flowers - quite different from those of Wood Nettle.