Common names: English: stinging nettle, nettle, burning nettle, giant nettle, European nettle, California nettle, slender nettle, common nettle, tall nettle; Polish: pokrzywa wielka, cygnuda, parzawica, dziubawica, dziubawiec, karpucha, gajka, żgawica; French: grande ortie, ortie; German: große Brennessel; Portuguese: ortiga, urtiga, urtiga-maior, urtiga-mansa, urtiga-vermelha; Spanish: chichicaste, ortiga; Swedish: brännässla; Chinese: yi zhu qian ma
Place of origin: northern Africa, Asia, Europe, North America
Urban habitat: Commonly found in moist disturbed sites, vacant lots, roadsides, and in urban meadows.
Ecological function: Disturbance-adapted colonizer, food and habitat for wildlife, soil reclamation.
History: Urtica dioica has an extensive history of human use across the many cultures in which it thrives. Many of the common names for Urtica dioica refer to the bristly, stinging hairs that covers its stems and which are very irritating to bare skin. In English, “nettle” is likely derived from the Anlgo-Saxon word for “needle”. The antidote is often growing nearby, in Plantain major, whose leaves can be rubbed on the site of the burn to sooth it. The stinging action is also neutralized when the plant is cooked. It is edible, primarily its young leaves, which are highly nutritious. Its roots and seeds are also edible. The plant also has a long history of medicinal use across the cultures in which it thrives, for treatment of a wide variety of ailments including hay fever, arthritis, anemia, respiratory problems, excessive bleeding, hemorrhoids, rheumatism, gout, eczema, bruises, rashes, kidney ailments and to encourage the flow of milk in nursing mothers. Native American tribes across North America found hundreds of uses for the plant: as food, in the creation of baskets, nets, twine and clothing; for ceremonial uses for hunting and protection, and medicinally for treatment of rheumatism, bleeding problems, sores, swellings, diarrhea, bladder ailments, colds, pneumonia, headaches, pain during childbirth, paralysis and tuberculosis. Due to its high vitamin K content, its fresh leaves can be used to stop all types of bleeding. Urtica dioica has other uses, including use for making string, cloth, paper, a green dye, and as an anti-dandruff shampoo. The growing plant is said to increase the essential oil content of other nearby plants, thus making them more resistant to insect pests. Nettle fiber has recently being rediscovered by the textile industry to make a cloth similar to linen but that is naturally antibacterial and mould-resistant. Despite its native status is considered invasive in several parts of the U.S. due to its rapid rate of growth and spreading habit.