Stinging Nettle

By Joshua Salley, LSU Ag Extension Service

Dwarf Nettle, also known as Stinging nettle, Burning nettle, or as my kids refer to it “Stinging grass” becomes very prevalent this time of year around lawns and in pastures.  This obnoxious weed may look tiny and harmless, but it packs a serious punch.  All it takes is the slightest touch of a leaf and you will quickly learn how it developed its name. 

This weed is a short lived annual that can contain one or several stems originating from the base of the plant.  The bright green leaves are paired along the stem, elliptical to oval in shape, and are usually less than 2 1/2 inches long.  The leaves contain calcium carbonate that appears as tiny bumps on the leaf surface.  All parts of the plant have numerous small hairs which act as tiny hypodermic needles which are filled with histamines, acetylcholine, serotonin, and formic acid.  When the leaves are brushed, the tips are broken and pressure within the hairs forces the chemicals into the skin which results in itching, swelling, and burning.

The quickest method of controlling this weed is by pulling them out and discarding by hand.  If this is your chosen method, please use caution and wear thick gloves.  Herbicides that are labeled for broadleaf weed control may be used as well.  Look for the active ingredient of 2,4-D on the herbicide label. 

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