This perennial plant grows, often in dense stands, in open floodplain forests. Standing 2-4 feet tall, the leaves are broad and deep green with prominent veins. Young leaves are deeply wrinkled while older leaves are flatter.
The stems are covered with stinging hairs that reduce herbivory (the eating of plants by herbivores, such as deer). Leaves have fewer stinging hairs, but can still be irritating to brush up against. Flowers are borne on feathery stalks, but the individual flowers are small, inconspicuous and white to greenish in color.
The wood nettle is often confused with stinging nettle, because of their stinging hairs, but the wood nettle has alternate leaves while the stinging nettle has opposite leaves.
The burning or itching sensation caused by brushing up against a wood nettle subsides within an hour, usually within a few minutes, but can be irritating.
Large stands of wood nettle provide cover for wildlife. Not many mammals feed on wood nettle, but despite the stinging hairs white-tailed deer will occasionally feed on the leaves. Some butterflies, such as the red admiral caterpillar, uses wood nettle as its host.
Blooms: July into early September.
Want to Help Us Better Understand the Park?
See our iNaturalist project, "The Life of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area" and contribute to it by downloading the iNaturalist app and uploading your sightings of this species, and others, to the project. You can also upload your sightings from your computer.
Last updated: March 7, 2018