SMALL NETTLE

Urtica urens

Nettle Family [Urticaceae]  

month8apr month8april month8may month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept month8oct month8nov

status
statusZarchaeophyte
flower
flower8green
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ4
type
typeZcatkins
stem
stem8square
stem
stem8ribbed
stem
stem8hollow
contact
contactZmedium
sex
sexZmonoecious

4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
A single plant just over a foot tall. They can grow up to 60cm and are much shorter than Stinging Nettles height of up to 2m.


4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are rounder than they are on Stinging Nettle which tend to be cordate at the base and longer along the main axis.


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD
Leaves elongated-oval (unlike those of Stinging Nettle which are often [but not always] cordate). The tooth at the tip is about as long as those two either side (on Stinging Nettle the tooth at the tip is way above those two either side).


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD
  The flowers are held much closer to the stem and just beneath leaf-pairs. Unlike Stinging Nettle (aka Common Nettle) (which is dioecious, with separate male and female plants and female) Small Nettle is monoecious, with flowers of both sex on the same plant [although the male flowers well outnumber the female flowers]. Both leaves and stem have stinging hairs but otherwise look sparsely hairy.


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD
  Unlike the flowers of Stinging Nettle where male and female flowers appear at the tops of male or female plants, those of Small Nettle are not dioecious but rather monoecious with the same plant having both male and female flowers on each plant.

Half-way up on the left is a fully opened male flower with 4 small white anthers splayed out in a square. Each stem node is stuffed with flowers and their fruits, unlike on Stinging Nettle when they are all in a long floppy string at the summit of the plant.



4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are slightly different on this specimen, being much less long-oval and more rounded. But the 3 teeth at the tip are still like those of Small Nettle: held much closer to the stem and not on long drooping racemes but rather much shorter tassels.

Leaves are more-deeply toothed and have a doubly-toothed look and much rounder than those of Stinging Nettle. The flowers are in very short in pendulous 'catkins' (whereas on Stinging Nettle they are on much longer drooping 'catkins'). The leaves are not only darker green, but also shinier than those of Stinging Nettle. Also, the terminal tooth of the leaves is the same size as those of either side of it (longer in Stinging Nettle), and the leaf teeth are more deeply cut and fewer in number than those of Stinging Nettle.



4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are greenish yellow, in much shorter catkins, and unlike Stinging Nettle, the male and female flowers are on the same plant. Leaves more deeply toothed than any other Nettle.


4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
  There may be a mixture of both male and female flowers on the same plant.


4th Aug 2009, Cricket Ground, Rufford, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The leaves also have stinging trichomes. The extremely thin and hollow needles of silica penetrate the skin on being brushed passed. As the trichome is flexed, the volume of the large cylindrical reservoir at the base is reduced slightly, pushing the poisonous contents up the sharp silica tube and under the skin of any mammal. For details of the poisons contained within see Stinging Nettle. Note the whitish male flower, lower right with some anthers visible.


11th May 2012, Mill Bridge, Torver Common, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Underside of leaf with prominent ribs.


11th May 2012, Mill Bridge, Torver Common, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Stinging trichomes on leaf ribs and stems.


11th May 2012, Mill Bridge, Torver Common, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The square stalk is 'telescopic' in nature, a new incarnation appearing at every leaf juncture. Leaves in opposite pairs on long stalks with stings. The leaf stalks (botanically petioles) are longer than the leaves on the lower leaves (but very much shorter near the top of the stems).


11th May 2012, Mill Bridge, Torver Common, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
At each leaf junction are two short bracts between the leaf stalks. Main telescopic stems square which may have purplish streaks and marks.


1st Sept 2018, Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington. Photo: © RWD
There are many more much shorter non-stinging hairs that there are stinging hairs, but more stinging hairs than has Stinging Nettle. The stems have a groove in some of the faces.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
The stems have a groove in some of the faces. There are many more much shorter non-stinging hairs that there are stinging hairs, but more stinging hairs than has Stinging Nettle.


NOT SMALL NETTLE

16th April 2008, Near Maiden Castle, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Stinging Nettle leaves are very variable. Here is a young plant with the characteristic roundish leaves of Small Nettle but which is not Small Nettle (it is probably a young plant of Stinging Nettle). Here the leaves, although small and shortish, are more cordate than diamond-shaped and lighter-green rather than darker green, are more matte and the end tooth is much longer than the others (at least on some leaves here).


Some similarities to : Stinging Nettle, but that is about twice as tall and has a much hairier appearance. Also its flower catkins are much longer, but the most important difference is that the male and female flowers on Stinging Nettles are on separate plants, whereas on Small Nettle they are on the same plant. The stems are square on both Nettles. There is another not as obvious difference: the roots of Small Nettle are white, whereas those of Stinging Nettle are a bright yellow/orange.

It occupies waste ground and is a weed of cultivation, especially common in crops of Sugar Beet and is considered an indicator of the need for additional lime. The average number of seeds is 1000 per plant, but a large one may produce up to 40 thousand seeds. Seedlings emerge from March to October, peaking in April and July. Seeds remain viable for up to 100 years.

The stinging trichomes are said to be more potent on Small Nettle! But your Author guesses that it depends upon time of year and how much they feel the need to defend themselves. Small Nettle grows earlier and flowers earlier than does Stinging Nettle.

Unlike Stinging Nettle which is dioecious (there are just male-only and female-only plants) Small Nettle is monoecious, with separate male and female flowers on the same plant. When the leaves are held up to the light (if you dare hold it bare-hand), they are seen to have translucent dots (which are absent from other Nettles). The stems are also ribbed on Small Nettle.

USE BY BUTTERFLIES
LAYS EGGS ON CATERPILLAR CHRYSALIS BUTTERFLY
Small Tortoiseshell
Map



  Urtica urens  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Urticaceae  

Distribution
family8Nettle family8Urticaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Urtica
Urtica
(Nettles)

SMALL NETTLE

Urtica urens

Nettle Family [Urticaceae]  

WildFlowerFinder Homepage