Laportea canadensis (L.) Weddell
Urtica canadensis L.
Urticastrum divaricatum (L.) Kuntze
Wood nettle is native to North America.
Identification: Plants are 24-48" (60-121 cm) high, found in moist woods. Their stems have stiff white hairs that sting if you rub against them, producing a rash and a strong burning sensation that usually lasts about an hour. Leaves are alternate, up to 4" (10 cm) × 6" (15 cm), egg-shaped, with coarse serrations. Flowers are greenish-white, appearing from July to September. See this article by Steve Brill on distinguishing among nettles and related plants.
Edibility: The young leaves are edible, nutritious, and delicious, like spinach. Cooking destroys the small stinging barbs on the leaves, but use gloves when harvesting the plants. Boiling doesn’t work well, but steaming produces good results.
Here are some similar species:
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|Plant||24-48" (60-121 cm) high. Stems have stiff white hairs that sting if you rub against them.||6-24" (15-60 cm) tall, with a stem that is hairless or covered with fine white hairs. Bracts beneath flowers, stems, and leaf undersides turn copper-colored.||6-24" (15-60 cm) high, with smooth, round, translucent stems. They do not have stinging hairs.|
|Flowers||Greenish-white, appearing from July to September.||Flowers are greenish-tan, and tiny—less than ⅛" (3.2 mm) across. They flower from July to October.||Both male and female flowers are on each plant. Fowers are ⅛" (3.2 mm) long, greenish-white or greenish-yellow, hanging in narrow bunches from the axils of the upper leaves.|
|Leaves||Alternating, up to 4" (10 cm) × 6" (15 cm), egg-shaped, with coarse serrations.||Leaves are alternate, lance-like or oval with sharp tips, 3½" (8.9 cm) × 1" (2.5 cm), with blunt serrations.||Leaves occur in opposite pairs, each 1-5" (2.5-12 cm) long by ½-2½" (1.3-6.3 cm) wide. Leaves are oval-shaped and coarse-toothed, with three prominent veins and textured leaves. The leaves are bright green, usually shiny, and become yellow in the fall.|
|Habitats||Moist woods, streambanks.||Open woods, moist soils, gravel bars, waste ground, roadsides, railroads.||Wet upland or floodplain forests, crevices in rocky canyons, and shady wetlands, streambanks.|
Laportea canadensis on Missouriplants.com
Laportea canadensis at Illinois Wildflowers
Laportea canadensis at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site
Laportea canadensis on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Laportea canadensis at Minnesota Wildflowers
Nettles and related plants on www.wildmanstevebrill.com
Laportea canadensis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Laportea canadensis at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
Laportea canadensis on eFloras
Newcomb, Lawrence, Morrison, Gordon (Illus.), Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Little, Brown and Company, 1977, p. 416
Laportea canadensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 15 Nov 2013.