Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle ©Harry Green

Stinging nettle

Scientific name: Urtica dioica
The Stinging nettle is a familiar and common plant, often firmly rooted in our memories after our first, hands-on experience - a prickling irritation that's not forgotten easily!

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 1m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

A very common plant, the Stinging nettle can be found growing in gardens, hedgerows, fields, woodlands and many other habitats. Its preference for damp, fertile and disturbed ground makes it a good coloniser of places enriched by human activities, such as agriculture and development. Stinging Nettles are great wildlife attractors: caterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies use them as foodplants; ladybirds feast on the aphids that shelter among them; and seed-eating birds enjoy their autumn spoils.

How to identify

To avoid the more painful way of identifying a Stinging nettle, look for the hairs on its stem, its drooping, catkin flowers, and oval, toothed leaves.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The Stinging nettle has been used for food, herbal remedies, dyes and fibres for hundreds of years. During the Second World War, children were encouraged to collect them so that they could be used to produce a dark green dye for camouflage.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try leaving wilder areas in your garden, such as patches of buttercups in your lawn or nettles near your compost heap, to see who comes to visit? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.