Genus of the Week
Week of Apr. 27 - May 3
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:
Family: Urticaceae: The Nettles
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:
- Texas A&M University has images of U. dioica
flowers, and an unidentified Urtica species in their
Vascular Plant Image Gallery. Also check out their description of the
- The Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System has detailed information about
U. dioica (Stinging Nettle), considered a noxious weed in that country.
- Visit Plant Viruses Online to find out what
pathogens affect the genus Urtica.
- Herbalists will want to visit MotherNature.com to find information about the many herbal uses for U. dioica.
- Those interested in herbal medications will also want to check out
Herbal Materia Medica at Health World.
- Genders, Roy. Edible Wild Plants: A Guide to Natural Foods. New York, van der Marck
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
- 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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