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Urtica and Laportea species


These prickly plants grow several feet high. They have small, inconspicuous flowers. Fine, hairlike bristles cover the stems, leaf stalks, and undersides of leaves. The bristles cause a stinging sensation when they touch the skin.

Habitat and Distribution

Nettles prefer moist areas along streams or at the margins of forests. They are found throughout North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern Europe.

Edible Parts

The very young shoots and leaves are edible. Boiling the plant for 10 to 15 minutes destroys the stinging element of the bristles. This plant is very nutritious.

Other Uses

Mature nettle stems have a fibrous layer that you can divide into individual fibers and use to weave string or twine. It's best to collect them after the stinging hairs have weathered away.

Steve's notes:

Most edible wild plants are not all that tasty, but nettle shoots are delicious. I prefer them to spinach. The stinging hairs can cause irritation that will sometimes last an hour, so use gloves to collect them, and be careful not to let them brush against your arms.

Nettles are rich in protein, minerals, iron, and vitamins C and A. Research shows that nettle slightly depresses the central nervous system, kills bacteria and increases urine flow. It has been used to treat poor circulation, anemia, and diarrhea.

Nettle fibers were used for many years to make rope, paper and cloth.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Nettle