Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle

The Enemy: Stinging nettle (Uritica dioica L.)

Strategy: This is a native perennial plant that inhabits moist areas in meadows and along waterways. It has a unique stem that is square. The plant can grow up to 9 feet tall. Leaves are coarsely-toothed with numerous, small, bristly, stinging hairs over much of the surface. Once you are pricked, the sites become inflamed like a case of the hives. Clusters of yellow to greenish flowers occur on axils of the upper leaves of the plant (that is where the leaf attaches to the stem). In the early spring, this plant is actually edible, as long as you know where you are looking for the salad-like food.

Attack: This plant is mostly a nuisance to recreationists, but many ranchers and farmers are disturbed by it when it makes it almost impossible for them or their livestock to get near water due to its stinging ability. The plant is great at utilizing all the water and nutrients near itself, thus keeping neighboring plants from out-competing them for space. Unless early in the spring, the plant is pretty much not grazed on by livestock.

Defense: As this is a perennial plant — mechanical control, such as mowing, is generally not effective. Due to the nature of the beast, digging it will only make you mad. The only bio-control I have seen is that grasshoppers tend to graze on it later in the season. Research has shown that the plant can be controlled by using herbicides such as Milestone, Opensight or Curtail. Choose according to other weeds you wish to control. Applications should be made when it is actively growing in the spring, early summer or in the fall. Remember that this plant is a native so only control it if you have to.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email weeds@co.bonneville.id.us.