Information on Common Nettle

Common Name: Common Nettle
Scientific Name: Urtica dioica
Irish Name: Neantóg
Family Group: Urticaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Common Nettle could sometimes be confused with:

Nettle, Fen, Nettle, Small,

Also known as Stinging Nettle, this familiar wayside perennial stands 60-100cm high and is well-known for its unpleasant sting.  It has pretty spear-shaped, toothed, opposite leaves which are longer than their stalks and very tiny green flowers from June to September which are wind-pollinated.  The little male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, the male flowers projecting from the leaf-stem axils and the female flowers growing in long catkin-like clusters.  Common Nettle's sting comes from acid which is released onto the skin when the tiny hairs break off on being touched.  Common Nettle is a native plant and belongs to the family Urticaceae.

Nettle was a much feared plant of my childhood.  It grew all along the laneway behind our garden where we played as children - this was in Dundrum, Co Dublin in the 1950's (when summers were always warm and school holidays never lasted long enough).  However we grew to know the soothing properties of the sap of a Dock leaf as an antidote to the Nettle's sting.

 

The photographs were taken in Gibletstown, Co Wexford in 2007.   

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Nettle, Common
Nettle, Common

In our folklore there are many uses for Nettle.

'To cure a sting of a nettle, place a dock leaf over sore part for a few minutes and it will be well' * 

'The water of boiled nettles if drank will cure anyone suffering from worms'** 

 'Cure for dropsy.  It is said if a person went to a graveyard and plucked a bunch of nettles that would be growing there and boiled them and give the water to drink to a person that had dropsy if would cure him' ***

 'For rheumatics a bed strewn with nettles'****

 '3 doses of nettles in the month of April will prevent any disease for the rest of the year' *****

* NFC 107.341 From Co Wexford
**  NFC 782:359 From Co Kerry
*** NFC 782:362 From Co Kerry
**** NFCS 454:333  From Co Kerry
***** NFCS 4555:226 From Co Kerry

All from the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.

17th century herbalist and apothecary, Nicholas Culpeper is reputed to have said:

'Nettles may be found by feeling for them in the darkest night'.

They are recognised as being a rich source of vitamin C and contain more iron than spinach. Indeed they make a very tasty soup but it is essential to pick them where no chemicals or pollution may have affected them and to use only the upper leaves as the lower leaves may contain irritants.  Nettles also contain anti-histamines which are helpful to those with allergies and serotonin which is reputed to aid one's feeling of 'well-being'.