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Urtica dioica (nettle)

The nettle is one of the most useful plants in Britain and even its sting can be beneficial.
Flowers and leaves of nettle

Urtica dioica (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Urtica dioica L.

Common name: 

nettle, stinging nettle

Conservation status: 

Not threatened.


Wasteland, hedgerows, fields and woods. Nettles do particularly well in soils with high levels of nitrogen and are often found growing around abandoned buildings.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicine, textiles, plant feed, cosmetics.

Known hazards: 

Nettle stings are irritating and poisonous but are very rarely serious.


Genus: Urtica

About this species

The nettle is well known for its toothed, hairy leaves and for its sting. The painful sensation of nettle stings occurs when toxins from specialised hairs are delivered into the skin. Each stinging hair has a bulbous tip which breaks off to leave a sharp, needle-like tube that pierces the skin and injects histamine and acetylcholine, causing itching and burning that may last up to 12 hours.


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Courses at Kew

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Why People Need Plants

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A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.