Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Wild Flower: It rhymes with hurtica

Urtica dioica
The very first 'wildflower' transplanted to the Home Bug Garden was a bit of root that fell out of a soil core. Rather than let the unknown root die, my wife brought it back and stuck it in a new bed along the walkway in the side yard. Next spring some interesting looking leaves sprouted and we anxiously awaited flowers so we'd have some idea of what we had. However, while weeding the bed, I was able to identify the new plant by the unpleasant stinging sensation in my hands.
Yes, nettle has flowers
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) isn't an unattractive plant, but it's flowers don't seem to inspire the lyrical joy of many other wildflowers. After brushing against our rapidly going bundle of nematocysts one too many times I donned the leather gloves and grubbed it out.
Milbert's Tortoiseshell caterpillars feed on Nettle
If I'd planted it in the back of the garden rather than next to a sidewalk, I may have let it thrive. Actually, I'm a bit sorry I didn't move it to the back of the garden. After all, it is an important food for many caterpillars that turn into attractive butterflies. The young shoots are edible, and reputedly make a tasty pot herb. Also, a friend of ours made wine from the flowers - and the taste was interesting (although after a couple of tastes, the rest went into a stew). Well, maybe some day we will try a patch.

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