Blog - butterflies

stinging nettle

A sting in the tale?

by Chris, 25 September, 2020, 3 comments

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are widespread across the UK.   They are found nearly everywhere; in woodlands, hedgerows, gardens and on disturbed ground. Nettles have been found in and around human settlements since the earliest of times; they probably formed part of the diet in Stone Age times.  Nettles also provided fibre for clothing.  A piece of nettle cloth has been found in Denmark's richest known Bronze Age burial mound (Lusehøj). It is associated with the burial of a rich and powerful man - after the burning of his body, his bones were wrapped in a cloth made from stinging nettles and then placed in a bronze container. Stinging nettle pollen is often to be found in soil sample cores, suggesting it is one of our native plants though human activity and movement may helped it to extend its range.  Nettles can tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, though they seem to like moisture, and soils rich in nitrate and phosphate. In favourable conditions, they can grow to a metre or more in height. There are patches of stinging nettles that mark phosphate-rich debris from abandoned villages and sites of human occupation from more than 1500 years ago. Nettles have the potential to grow and expand in woodlands, perhaps aided and abetted by the increasing levels of eutrophication (nitrate / phosphate enrichment from air borne pollution).  Indeed, they can become 'botanical thugs' overwhelming other members of the ground flora  / herb layer. Read more...

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