Let’s begin with the basics. Nettles can colonize bare or disturbed ground. The seeds of nettles can remain dormant for up to five years. The rhizomatous roots (which are interconnected) that make it so difficult to remove them from flowerbeds also give them a superpower. They can quickly establish new populations.
Plants are often thought of as greenery. Yes, plants are essential for clean air. But they’re also simple organisms. Researchers are rethinking the way they think about plants. They’re more complex than we thought and much more similar to us. It is impossible to cover this exciting field of science in just one or two articles.
The article in this series is called Plant Curious. It explores scientific studies that will challenge your perception of plants.
Charles Darwin’s theory that nettle seeds could survive a long soak in salty water while using the sea to disperse them turned out to be right. A study in 2018 found their toughness enabled them to colonize overseas .
Is destroying nature. Plants are essential to wildlife in gardens and the countryside, but climate changes make it more difficult for them to grow. The resilience of nettles makes them an important tool in the battle to stop this natural crisis.
In urban and agricultural areas, stinging nettles are a great way to help wildlife. In the UK, they are the food plant of painted lady, peacock, and red admiral butterflies, as well as small tortoiseshells. These butterflies have expanded their range in our towns and gardens due to the spread of nettles from their woodland habitat.
The caterpillars of peacock butterflies feed on stinging nettles. Keith Hider/Shutterstock
Not only butterflies depend on nettles. Ladybirds lay their eggs on the leaves of nettles. This “gardener friend” is a voracious eater of aphids – those pesky little black and green flies that ravage our vegetables and sap our plants. Ladybirds and other insects can find shelter in nettles near agricultural fields and gardens. They are ready to feed when the aphid populations rise.
Animals like rabbits and sheep are less likely to eat nettles that have more stinging hairs. The cutting action of nettles is a simple form of self-defense.
The leaves and stems of these plants have tiny hairs which, when touched, provide a mechanical defense (the hairs in the silica break off and irritate the skin) and a chemical defense (releases irritants like histamine). It is a reasonable measure, considering the damage humans cause to nature.
Ouch! The silica fibers are like needles that inject irritants. Floki/Shutterstock
Broad-leaved Dock Plant ( rumex obtusifloius ) grows well in conditions similar to stinging Nettles, so it is often found growing together. Dock leaves have not been proven to treat nettle bites. However, I use them anyway because it doesn’t hurt, and it makes me feel better.
Let’s discuss what nettles can do for your health if you are still not convinced. The use of stinging and stinging nettles as folk medicine has a long tradition in Europe. There is also scientific evidence to suggest that nettles, or the extracts of their roots, leaves, and stems, can be used as a treatment for hypertension and diabetes. You can use them to keep chickens and fish in good health.
They can be used to wrap cheese or make soup. These nettles are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
You can use nettles to make clothes. There is evidence that people living in cool climates have used nettles for textile fibers since the Bronze Age. They were used until widespread sheep breeders began to use wool. It was also used to fill in the shortages that were caused by world wars. In temperate, cool climates, traditional fiber plants such as cotton will not grow, but nettles can.
The nettles can be used to weave an eco-friendly fabric.
Scientists are investigating nettle fibers to see if they can meet the modern demand for fabrics and clothing. They can grow on contaminated or poor soil, unlike cotton. They can be turned into plant-based fiber, which doesn’t interfere with food production.
You’re probably convinced that stinging nettles are a friend of ours and deserve to be in the countryside, even though they can be annoying at times. Leave a small area in your garden for butterflies to attract. This will save you time weeding.