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Stinging Nettles in Gardens, Fields and Waste Land

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Common stinging nettles

Stinging Nettles and How They Sting

The nettle is much disliked for its sting, which can be quite severe if the plant is touched gently, although it does not hurt if it is grasped firmly. The sting is caused by fine hairs on the surface of the pointed leaves. When a hair pierces the skin some of the liquid from a little sac at the base of the hair is pushed out of it into the tiny hole made in the skin, and this causes the pain.

The small nettle and common nettle grow in Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. The small nettle grows about one or two feet high and is smooth except for its stinging hairs, but the large one is two to four feet high and hairy all over. Both grow in fields and waste ground and flower from June to September. The flowers have no distinct petals but grow in clusters.

As well as these two nettles, there is another British species, or kind, which grows near the sea in the east of England. It is called the Roman nettle and has an even sharper sting.

The Dead nettles, which belong to a different family, were given their name because they look like nettles but do not sting. Their flowers are white or red and contain honey.

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