by Stephen B. Austin

Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica L., is a paradox, providing an abundance of benefits, both for humanity and wildlife, while at the same time being a purveyor of pain and suffering. One may ask, “How does this plant show evidence of a loving Creator, and why is there the curse of the stinging hairs?”

 Biological classification

To address these questions we will first discuss how the plant is classified within the botanical nomenclature of today. The most common species of stinging nettle is Urtica gracilis Aiton. It is included in the family of plants known as the Urticaceae, or nettle family. There are about 45 genera and 800 species worldwide in the nettle family, according to the Flora of North America (Boufford, 2007).

Other sources broaden the number of genera and species. For example, the Flora of China (Chen et al., 2007) lists the Urticaceae as being composed of 47 genera and 1,300 species worldwide. According to Baumgardt (1982), European authorities include the genus Humulus in the Urticaceae, while American otanists have created a new family, Cannabinaceae. The latter includes the infamous Cannabis sativa L., otherwise know as marijuana!

The genus Urtica, according to the Flora of North America (Boufford, 2007), contains 45 species, of which four are found in the United States: Urtica chamaedryoides Pursh, U. dioica Linnaeus, U. gracilenta Greene, and U. urens Linnaeus.

For the sake of this paper, we will focus on the more common species, Urtica dioica , but at times we will mention some things about the other three species in America, as well as selected members of the genus from other parts of the world….

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