How to get rid of stinging nettles permanently

Controlling Stinging Nettle: Getting Rid Of Stinging Nettle Weeds

Most of us have heard or know of stinging nettle. It is common in yards and can become quite the nuisance. But for those unsure of what it is or how to get rid of it, information about stinging nettle and its control is especially important.

What is Stinging Nettle?

Stinging nettle is a member of the large family Urticaceae and is a decidedly unpleasant herbaceous perennial. As the name implies, stinging nettle has the capacity to irritate and blister when it comes into contact with skin. The most common variety (Urtica dioica procera) is native to North America, being prolific in California and other areas of the western United States, and is referred to by a number of common names for its two most widespread subspecies.

Stinging nettle thrives in damp, nutrient rich soils and can be found anywhere from pastures, orchards, overgrown yards, roadsides, stream banks, ditches and even at the edges of fields or wooded lots in partial shade. Stinging nettle is less likely to be found in the desert, elevations over 9,800 feet (3,000 m.) and in areas of salinity.

Information About Stinging Nettle

Controlling stinging nettle is a virtuous pursuit, due to its painful effect on human skin. The leaves and stems of stinging nettles are finely covered with thin bristles that lodge in the offended skin, leaving red patches that itch and burn — sometimes for up to 12 hours. These hairs have an internal structure much like a tiny hypodermic needle which plunges neurotransmitter chemicals, such as acetylcholine and histamine, under the skin, causing the reaction known as ‘irritant dermatitis.’

A full sized stinging nettle plant may be 3-10 feet (0.9-3 m.) tall, on occasion even reaching up to 20 feet (6 m.) in height. It has an angular stem branching outwards from the base. Both the stem and leaf surface have non-stinging and stinging hairs. This perennial weed blooms from March to September with insignificant whitish green flowers at the base of the leaf stalks and fruit that is tiny and egg shaped.

How to Kill Stinging Nettle Plants

Controlling stinging nettle can be a lesson in futility, as the plant is not only a prolific grower, but also springs from underground rhizomes and is easily propagated via wind-dispersed seeds. Tilling or cultivating an area that is heavily populated may spread the rhizomes, increasing the colony instead of getting rid of stinging nettle. Again, stinging nettle control is difficult, as these underground horizontal root stems can spread 5 feet (1.5 m.) or more in a season, continually re-growing from the rhizomes, even when broken apart.

So, you may wonder how to kill stinging nettle plants then? Stinging nettle may be removed by hand, taking care to protect the skin with gloves and other appropriate attire. Be sure to remove the underground rhizomes completely or the weed will continue to come back. Close mowing or “weed whacking” can retard growth as well.

Otherwise, when controlling stinging nettle, it may be necessary to resort to chemical herbicides such as isoxaben, oxadiazon, and oxyfluorfen, which are only available to licensed pesticide applicators.

How do I get rid of nettles in an organic way?

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7 plants that will make you sting, itch and blister

Marcus Schneck | [email protected]

Seven plants that will make you sting, itch and blister

Many plants cause skin irritation in humans. Different people react to the toxins in those plants differently and at different times in their lives.

Rash-, blister- and pain-causing toxins in many wild plants are everywhere in Pennsylvania, waiting for the slightest contact with some unsuspecting human. Depending upon your susceptibility, your reaction to some of them can range from mild to severe and requiring medical attention.

Here are seven common toxic plants that can give you a really bad day.

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Leaves of three, let it be

The trademark “leaves of three” makes poison ivy one of the easiest rash-makers to identify. It’s called trifoliate leaves, which means three leaves sprout at the same point on the stem. Poison ivy can grow as a vine, low shrub or ground cover. Poison ivy bears its fruit as clusters of greenish-white drupes, which are fleshy fruits each with a hard stone enclosing a seed inside.

The toxin, urushiol oil, is in the sap of the plant. Touching the plant can cause skin irritation, rashes and blisters.

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Close relative of poison ivy

Like its cousin, poison oak carries it leaves in trifoliate patterns on the stem. However, the leaves of the poison oak look like hairy oak leaves. Poison oak also can grow as a vine or shrub, and also bears its fruit as clusters of greenish-white drupes.

The same toxin, urushiol oil, as in poison ivy, causes the skin irritation, rashes and blisters from poison oak contact.

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Poison sumac

Growing as a tall shrub or small tree to a height of 6-30 feet, poison sumac carries the same urushiol oil as poison ivy and poison oak, but in higher concentrations. Some botanists rate poison sumac as the most toxic plant in North America.

Skin reaction to poison sumac includes painful swellings and eruptions, but if the smoke from burning sumac leaves is inhaled the result can be a life-threatening pulmonary edema, whereby fluid enters the lungs.

Poison sumac normally grows in wet areas.

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Giant hogweed

An invader from Asia, giant hogweed was introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century and is now growing throughout the northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. It’s a giant member of the carrot family, growing as tall as 14 feet or more, with hollow stems 2-4 inches in diameter and large compound leaves as much as five feet wide. The tiny white flowers grow in clusters similar to the flowerheads of Queen Anne’s lace, but much larger.

The sap of giant hogweed, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness.

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Marcus Schneck | [email protected]

Wild parsnip

Also known as the poison parsnip, the wild parsnip is an aggressively invasive, non-native that has taken hold throughout the eastern U.S. It tends to colonize disturbed sites quickly. It grows 2-5 feet tall with tooth-edged basal leaves and small yellow flowers that grow in cluster similar to those of the Queen Anne’s lace.

Chemicals in the sap contains photosensitizing chemical compounds that are activated by ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. Exposure produces burnlike blisters.

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Marcus Schneck | [email protected]

Stinging nettle

Native to Europe and Asia, stinging nettle found its way to North America and now grows coast to coast. It generally grows in highly invasive patches of single-stem plants 3-4 feet tall.

The stinging nettle is covered in small hairs. When touched those hairs “sting” with a nasty blend of histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and formic acid. Skin reaction of localized pain, reddish swelling, itching and numbness generally last for a few hours maximum before resolving on their own.

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Wood nettle

Also known as Canada nettle, the low-standing wood nettle grows in open woods with moist soils, along streams and in drainages. It often grows into small clumps. Each plant has both stinging and non-stinging hairs on the foliage and the stems. It has small, whitish green flowers spring to early fall.

Contact with the stinging hairs will produce a painful burning sensation, following by rash and blistering, which can last for several days.

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More scary stuff

For another look at additional scariness lurking in the Pennsylvania outdoors, check out this slide show on wildlife-borne diseases in Pennsylvania.

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Irritating Plants

A cactus is pretty obvious in showing its thorny side. Other plants are more subtle, but no less ouchy. “Some plants are just very irritating to the skin,” says Rajani Katta, MD. “Some from the presence of thorns or needles, but other plants have sharp edges or hairs on them that can cause skin irritation.”

Katta, who is the director of the contact dermatitis clinic at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says plants that cause skin abrasions and irritated skin may have these features:

Sharp-edged or pointed leaves. Plants such as agave or yucca have needle-sharp leaves, and getting too close can leave you with a cut or skin abrasion. Some decorative plants such as pampas grass look soft, but actually have razor-sharp edges that can easily slice skin. And holly plants, while pretty to look at, can deliver a sharp poke if you touch their leaves.

Thorns. No surprise here. Classic beauties such as rose bushes and bougainvillea – just two examples of thorny shrubs — are notoriously prickly.

Spines and glochids. One look at a barrel cactus and you know to keep your distance. But some types of cactus, like the prickly pear, are covered with very fine, hair-like, barbed thorns called glochids. Glochids can become embedded at the slightest touch and are hard to see to remove.

Stem and leaf hairs. These fine hairs can be found on the stems and leaves of plants such as borage, an herb sometimes used in cooking, and seemingly innocent flowering plants such as forget-me-nots and dogwood trees. Because they are harmless-looking, stem and leaf hairs can catch people by surprise and cause skin irritation.

Barely visible irritant fibers. Home gardeners may be surprised to find out that tulip bulbs can cause skin abrasions. “Because these fibers are so small, you don’t think of tulips as being dangerous in any way,” Katta says. But people who frequently handle tulips bulbs can get a condition called “tulip fingers,” caused by a combination of the irritating fibers and a certain chemical in the bulb.

In this activity, students investigate a selection of plant leaves to discover how they are adapted to deter herbivores, looking specifically at stinging nettles and docks.

Stinging nettles have developed stinging cells as an adaptation to deter herbivores from eating them. The plants contain long, thin, hollow hairs that cover the majority of the stem and the underside of the leaves. Nettle stings contain acid (formic acid) but they also contain histamine and other chemicals. The exact details are still unknown but it is the histamine that causes the initial reaction when you are stung.

Dock leaf sap contains a natural antihistamine, which helps to ease the stinging sensation. The dock leaves themselves contain oxalic acid, which deters herbivores from eating them.

The resource is divided into three parts. In Part 1, students look at a range of leaves (either in the form of photographs or the leaves themselves) and identify the most obvious adaptations. In Part 2, the students investigate the pH of various leaves. Finally, in Part 3, students use Universal Indicator paper to identify the pH of nettle stings, and compare this with the pH of the dock saps

Watch the video of this practical on our YouTube Channel.

Image of nettle leaf showing stings

Close up image of sting

The photograph shows a nettle sting in extreme close-up, from the SAPS Image Collection.

Tags: 11 -14 (KS3), 14 -16 (KS4), Adaptation, Practical, Activity

Last time, I went over how to take care of a cow parsnip burn. Today, we are going to go over another plant that likes to bite back: stinging nettles.When I was about six, my parents moved to a wooded area next to a river. Oh, the exploration that I did! But I quickly learned to stay away from the heart shaped leaves with saw-toothed edges. The first time I encountered it, I didn’t know what was happening. I had been running but tripped and fell right into a big patch of stinging nettle. Immediately, a stinging nettle rash started to appear. It burned and scared me so much that I started crying and screaming bloody murder. My parents came running and couldn’t figure out what had caused my outburst because I was blubbering so much. When they finally figured it out (after having to call some people who knew a little more about stinging nettle – this was before the internet), what they did to treat it – pouring cold water on the affected area, still didn’t take all of the pain away. I wish they knew what I know now. Today, I’m going to go over some wonderful, natural at home remedies for stinging nettle rash.

What happens when you run into stinging nettle

All Urtica species have little hairs that cover both the leaves and the stems. Once you come into contact with the nasty little buggers, a rash that stings, then itches appears. The sting, depending on your source, comes from either formic acid or a histamine compound. An article from Healthline attributes the sting to a variety of chemicals that are released when the needle-like hairs come into contact with your skin. These include histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, leukotrienes, and moroidin. The combination of these chemicals not only causes the stinging sensation, but the itchy one after the stinging goes away.

Incidentally, the stinging of stinging nettle is supposed to help with arthritis. A woman who lived in an intentional community with me used to harvest the nettles bare-handed. Natives have also used the fresh switches to whip themselves to help relieve the pain. Some medical research has shown this to be true.

Plants to use against stinging nettle rash

If you accidentally run into some stinging nettles, chances are you will likely be around one of these other plants that can help take away the sting.

Stinging nettle can cause a nasty rash

Stinging Nettle – I have not used this one as I have successfully avoided getting a rash since finding this remedy. You are supposed to be able to rub the crushed leaves on the affected area (it is recommended that to crush the leaves, you rub them between gloved hands).

Crushed dock can help relieve a stinging nettle rash.

Yellow dock – Crush up the leaves of dock to make sure the juices get flowing. You can either then put just the juice on it or put a poultice on the affected area.

A plantain poultice is great for many skin ailments, including a nettle rash.

Plantain – Use plantain pretty much the same way as yellow dock.

By © Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 2004 /, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Jewelweed – Use jewelweed the same as yellow dock. Additionally, you can make a decoction out of the entire plant, wait for it to cool and then wash the area with the decoction.

The brown scruff can be saved and used on nettle rashes.

Scruffy coating of fiddleheads – Since there is no juice, just take them off of the fiddleheads and rub the area with them. If you harvest a lot of fiddleheads, this is the perfect thing to save the scruffy coating for!

Other things to use against stinging nettle rash

What my parents did – pouring cold water over the rash – only helped take away the sting. It didn’t help with itch afterwards. So what you need to do:

1) Wait ten minutes for the juices to dry to make it easier to remove said juices.

2) Wash the affected area with soap and cold water. Liquid soap is better so the hairs to get picked up by the bar soap and spread. Do not use heat as it makes the stinging/itching worse.

3) Use tape to pick up the hairs.

4) If there is continued discomfort, use one of the plants above, except the stinging nettle itself. You’ve already taken care of what that would help with. I recommend the plantain as it is excellent for a lot of skin ailments having to do with inflammation. You can also use my wound balm!

Now you know how to treat two of the most irritating plants in Alaska! It might be fall, but now you’re ready for next hiking season!

Yes, stinging nettles sting. But they have many assets too.

This undated photo shows stinging nettles in New Paltz, N.Y. Nettles is a weed and it stings, but it also is a healthful and tasty plant. (Lee Reich via AP)

At a time of year when weeds may be getting the better of you, what sweet revenge it is to turn them into an asset. Eat them!

And one of the best weeds for this purpose is stinging nettle.

Yes, that “stinging” in the name is off-putting, and rightly so. Grab a clump of stinging nettle leaves and stems in your bare hands and you’ll feel like you’ve been stung by a horde of angry ants or bees. That’s because the plant is covered with short, hollow hairs that are poised like miniature hypodermic needles. Their swollen bases are filled with formic acid, the same stuff that causes the pain of ant and bee stings. Even accidentally brushing against the plant is enough to inflict stings, and the pain could last a whole day.

Stinging nettle does not seem like the kind of plant anyone would want to harvest, let alone put into their mouth. But putting on gloves takes care of the harvesting problem. And cooking or drying the plant removes the sting for eating.

There are good reasons to go to the trouble of eating stinging nettles, beyond wanting to remove it from your garden. Stinging nettle is a healthful weed, or, shall we now say, healthful “vegetable.” It’s high in vitamins A and C, and in the minerals calcium and iron.

Stinging nettle also has a number of medicinal properties, including some anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Poultices of nettle tea are said to soothe aching joints, and nettle has been used to treat urinary problems and offer some relief from hay fever.

Probably the most famous medicinal use of stinging nettle is for treating arthritis. The stinging seems to stimulate blood flow to afflicted areas when locally applied. (Interestingly, bee stings have also been used to treat arthritis.)

I’m not suggesting choking down stinging nettle as famine food or as medicine; the stuff also tastes good. I’ve enjoyed it as a tea and as cooked greens, the latter in the same way as spinach. If you aspire to loftier culinary heights, borrow some dishes from around the world: nettle beer from Britain or, from Ireland, nettle cream soup, which also calls for leeks, milk, butter and, of course, oatmeal. The best season to harvest nettles is now, in spring, when the shoots and leaves are young and tender.

If you don’t know the plant, you probably don’t want to discover it by accidentally brushing up against it. So here’s what to look for: a stem 4 to 6 feet high with pointed, somewhat heart-shaped, toothed leaves directly opposite each other at each node along the stem. The leaves are smooth on their upper sides, their stinging hairs on the undersides. The flowers and the seeds that follow are both small, and appear in branched clusters that emerge where leaves join the stem.

Don’t flog yourself too much for letting this weed find its way into your garden. You’re a good gardener. Stinging nettle is a weed of damp, rich soils. Now, if only I could find some use for creeping Charlie and quackgrass, two other weeds of damp, nutrient rich soils.

Explore further

Plants are ‘biting’ back: Scientist discover ‘teeth’ on plants of the rock nettle family

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Yes, stinging nettles sting. But they have many assets too. (2017, May 9) retrieved 1 February 2020 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Stinging Nettles – Control & Eradication of Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles are a common weed, tough weed to control. They spread from seed and from the roots so to control nettles you need to attack on both fronts. They prefer a a slightly acid, rich soil but will grow on any soil type – wet or dry, rich or poor.

Stinging Nettle Benefits – Butterflies & Edible

Stinging Nettle – Note the seeds it’s about to shed

Nettles do have some plus points, for a start they are essential for some butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on the nettle whilst protected from predators to a degree by the stings. The main butterfly species that use the nettle are: Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

Some people like to grow stinging nettles in pots in a border to attract and assist those attractive butterfly species but you need to be careful not to let them seed.

They’re not very useful, to encourage butterflies and other wildlife a bigger patch is more effective.

Yes, young stinging nettle shoots are edible (cooked) and some people actually like them. I’d not place them in the delicacy division myself. It’s amazing what human beings can eat when pushed.

Like most plants, they have their place – just not all over my garden, thanks!

Stinging Nettle Tea – An Organic Control

Nettle roots can go down fairly deep as they extract their nutrients from the soil. It’s a shame to waste that pirate’s chest. By converting nettles to fertiliser you get the benefit of that chest and eventually weaken and kill the weed.

Take shears, sickle or scythe to nettle patch, cutting them as near to the ground as you can. Gloves and long sleeved shirt are a good idea unless you’re immune to pain. Collect the cut and cram into a barrel, fill with water and leave.

The liquid will get smelly but not as bad as comfrey tea! Basically use as a liquid fertiliser instead of just watering. Particularly good for brassicas and sweetcorn who need a lot of nitrogen.

By the time your first batch of nettle tea is ready, your stinging nettle patch will be in full growth again. Take another cut. You can add to the barrel and top up with water or use this cut on the compost heap so long as there are no seeds.

Three or four cuts a year for a year or two will kill most nettle patches off.

Weeding Stinging Nettles Organically

Killing off stinging nettles that are growing up from windblown seeds is a matter of hoeing them off before they get properly established. A sharp hoe, just under the surface and flick so they don’t get chance to re-root.

With an established patch, a bigger task awaits you. Cut the foliage down and compost it unless it’s seeding. If seeding make nettle tea or burn them because, unless you have a really good hot compost heap, it will be a nettle patch in short order.

Next fork over the soil and remove all the yellow nettle roots you can see. I mean every bit. Burn or drown the roots as nettles will grow back from even a small piece of root. Leave the patch for a month and you’ll see new nettles springing up from the bits you missed. Repeat the digging and root removal.

Nettles prefer an acid soil and liming to a PH above 5.5 or 6.0 seems to really slow them down if not stop them.

Non-Organic Chemical Control of Stinging Nettles

Because they spring back from the roots, killing the foliage alone is ineffective way to eradicate nettles. You need a systemic herbicide – that is a weedkiller that is absorbed by the leaves and taken down to the roots.

Unfortunately the only effective systemic weedkiller available is likely to be glyphosate based which has had a lot of adverse reports regarding it’s safety and environmental friendliness. Even glyphosate may need 4 applications to kill off an established patch of stinging nettles

Previously ammonium sulphamate would be effective against stinging nettles but this is no longer licensed although it has no reported safety concerns.

Controlling Weeds

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  • Clearing Couch Grass (Twitch Grass or Scutch, Wickens, Quick)
  • Control Horse or Mare’s Tail – Equisetum Arvense
  • Organic Control of Brambles
  • Stinging Nettles – Control & Eradication of Stinging Nettles
  • Stinging Nettles – Problem or Resource?


Botanical name: Urtica urens
Family name: Urticaceae

Nettle is an annual weed commonly found in agriculture and horticulture. Most people call it “stinging nettle” because of its well-known characteristic of inflicting a sting to your skin if you should happen to brush past its foliage. The sharp hairs on the foliage inject a number of chemicals into the skin that makes the affected area of your skin feel pain, sensitising the nerves so the feeling is amplified, and also causing swelling around the affected area. If you grab a nettle plant firmly, you may be able to avoid the sting by bending the hairs over before they can penetrate the skin. On farms, nettles are often found in stock camps beside shelter belts as the plants need bare soil to get established from seed and, once germinated, generally won’t be grazed by the animals. In horticulture, nettle can tolerate low rates of glyphosate, so the weed is often found in areas such as herbicide strips under orchard trees where glyphosate is frequently used. It will often also be found in gardens where people hand-weeding avoid pulling it out, allowing seeds to be formed. Although generally considered to be a weed, nettle is also claimed to have herbal properties, being used in herbal shampoos and also for homeopathic remedies for burns. It is cooked and used as a vegetable, as heat dissipates the poison.

Distinguishing features

Nettle is an upright plant which seldom grows much taller than 50 cm, and has a distinctive jagged leaf-shape. The other common weed which may be confused with it is nettle-leaved fathen (Chenopodium murale), which is closely related to fathen but has more jagged leaves than fathen. If you’re unsure whether a weed is nettle-leaved fathen, you could try touching it to see if you get stung or not, but perhaps looking at the hairs might be better. Nettle has long, stinging hairs, whereas nettle-leaved fathen has no hairs. The flowers and fruits of nettle are greenish and indistinctive, hidden away at the base of the leaves (see middle photo). There are also a number of other nettle species, such as the native tree nettle (Urtica ferox) often found on bush margins. Occasionally you will also find perennial nettle (Urtica dioica), which has an underground rhizome system, grows in clumps, and the floral parts are on much larger stalks and thus more conspicuous than in nettle.


Although nettle normally doesn’t cause extensive problems in crops, occasionally when there is quite a bit of seed in the soil from poor control in the past, nettle can establish with a new crop to cause problems. You often see this next to where trees once grew in a paddock and thus once nettles grew in stock camps. It can be controlled in pastures using 2,4-D, and it is also reasonably susceptible to MCPA but not that well controlled by MCPB, especially once it is established. In horticultural crops and gardens, both glyphosate and paraquat are quite weak on nettle, so it’s better to use amitrole or glufosinate (eg Buster). The best control with glufosinate is when it is applied with oxyfluorfen, and this mixture is available commercially as Vixen.

Weedy Wednesday – Stinging nettle

This week’s plant in our Wednesday Weed series is the stinging nettle. Fierce, invasive but full of goodness.

In this weekly series, we take a quick look at common garden weeds. How they grow, what benefits they bring to the garden, and how to manage them. Organic growers recognise the importance of these native plants. Insects and birds need the flowers and seeds – and gardeners, cooks and herbalists can harvest some nutrient rich foliage.

We hope that this snap-shot view of bindweed, dandelion, nettle, bramble, thistle, goosegrass, plantain, fat hen, dock and yes, even ground elder, will help you to live with them. We also give advice on how to compost weeds. You may not love them, but you certainly won’t be tempted to reach for the toxic weed-killer.

For more detailed information on over 100 individual weeds, go to the superbly researched Weeds List, and here for how to manage them.

Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica

What: The common nettle is abundant throughout the UK. Children and gardeners soon learn to recognise its upright spikes and dark green leaves in order to avoid the painful sting. This comes from the hollow hairs, called trichomes, on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation on contact.

Habit: This perennial weed likes a soil high in nitrates. It flowers for several months from May to September. Plants bear only male or female flowers that are usually wind pollinated. Seeds can germinate immediately on a bare soil in full sunlight, or can remain viable for up to 5 years. The tough distinctive yellow roots creep extensively, with horizontal shoots developing a short distance below the soil surface. New roots are formed in late summer or autumn from older rhizomes or from the stem bases of aerial shoots. These shoot tips may die back if frosted, but the plant overwinters underground.

Benefits: Dried nettles provide excellent fodder for farm animals with a high protein content. Despite the stalky nature it is easily digested. The flowers are a good source of pollen and nectar for butterflies. Humans also enjoy eating the nettle – when young and tender. It has high levels of iron, calcium and magnesium. Cooking will destroy the sting! It is claimed the seeds are an anti-depressant. Fibres from the stem were used to make linen and ropes.

Controls: Remove the rootstocks as thoroughly as possible when nettle patches are small. The collected material should be burnt. Repeated hoeing will exhaust the roots eventually. In grass, regular cutting should effectively destroy the plant.

For further information on this and other weeds, go to the Weeds List, and here for how to manage them.

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