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Urticaceae: Stinging Nettle Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Urticaceae
Plants of the Stinging Nettle Family

      Many species of the Stinging Nettle family have a memorable way of identifying themselves for you. Hairs underneath the leaves function as hypodermic needles to inject formic acid into the skin when you come in contact with them. Three genera of the family have stinging hairs: Urtica, Laportea, and Hesperocnide, the last being a native of California.

      Members of the Stinging Nettle family are herbs with simple, usually opposite leaves and occasionally squarish, usually hairy stems. The greenish or brownish flowers are mostly unisexual with male and female flowers on the same or different plants. There are 4 or 5 sepals, 0 petals and 4 to 5 stamens. The ovary is positioned superior and has only one carpel (unicarpellate). It matures as a dry seed, called an achene. Worldwide, there are 45 genera and 550 species. Six genera are found in North America. The Mulberry family is sometimes included in this family.

      Most species in the family are edible as pot herbs. The plants have strong fibers for making cordage. The silkplant (Boehmeria) is said to have the longest fibers known in the plant kingdom, with a tensile strength eight times greater than cotton (Fern).

Key Words: Usually hairy plants with petalless flowers in string-like clusters from the leaf axils.

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Urtica dioica. Stinging Nettle.

Urtica dioica. Stinging Nettle. Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony, Montana.

Urtica dioica. Stinging Nettle.

Urtica dioica. Stinging Nettle.

There are more
Stinging Nettle Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


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