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Genus of the Week

Week of Apr. 27 - May 3

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources on a particular genus.

This week's genus:


Subclass: Dicotyledoneae
Superorder: Dilleniidae
Order: Urticales
Family: Urticaceae: The Nettles
Tribe: Urticeae
Number of Species: 50
Root: from the Greek "uro", which means "I burn".

The genus Urtica is most easily recognized by the tiny stinging hairs that adorn the leaves and stems of many of its species. Unfortunately (and I speak from experience), it may be difficult for the amateur botanist to recognize a member of this genus simply by sight, especially early in the growing season. The hairs release chemicals which causes extreme pain and skin irritation (again, I speak from experience). Yet these plants should not be considered a complete nuisance; some species actually yield a fiber that can be used like thread, and some are considered edible. The leaves are high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C and can be used to make tea or soup.

Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Urtica species:


  1. Genders, Roy. Edible Wild Plants: A Guide to Natural Foods. New York, van der Marck Editions: 1988.
  2. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  3. Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.

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