Stinging Nettle (Common name)

General poisoning notes:

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is found across Canada and includes a wide-ranging native subspecies and an introduced subspecies found in the Maritime Provinces. The plant can form large colonies in orchards, farmyards, old pastures, ditches, and waste places. The stinging hairs readily break, allowing the secretions to enter skin. Humans receive a painful sting, followed by a small reddish swelling and prolonged itching and numbness. Initial reactions last only a few minutes but repeated contact can cause the pain to intensify and last for days. Hunting dogs in the United States were poisoned and died after massive exposure to the plants (Bassett et al. 1977, Mitchell and Rook 1979, Anon. 1982).

References:

  • Anon. 1982. Stinging nettle (Urtica sp.) and dogs. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 24: 247.
  • Bassett, I. J., Crompton, C. W., Woodland, D. W. 1977. The biology of Canadian weeds. 21. Urtica dioica L. Can. J. Plant Sci., 57: 491-498.
  • Mitchell, J. C., Rook, A. 1979. Botanical dermatology. Greenglass Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 787 pp.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Urtica dioica L.
Vernacular name(s):
stinging nettle
Scientific family name:
Urticaceae
Vernacular family name:
nettle

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Urtica dioica

References:

  • Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.
  • Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.
  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.
  • Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.
  • Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon Territory

References:

  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

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Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

The stinging hairs on the stem, leaves, and flowers produce a painful sting. The hairs consist of a long shaft that narrows towards the point and has a small bulbous tip. The hair just below the tip is not silicified, unlike the rest of the hair, so that the tip is easily broken. A fine hollow shaft remains that can puncture the skin, through which secretions can enter (Mitchell and Rook 1979).

Toxic parts:

  • hairs

References:

  • Mitchell, J. C., Rook, A. 1979. Botanical dermatology. Greenglass Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 787 pp.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

The stinging hairs of stinging nettle contain the compounds acetylcholine, histamine, and 5-hydroxytryptamine. Acetylcholine is found naturally in mammals and is involved in firing nerves, whereas histamine causes swelling (Mitchell and Rook 1979).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • acetylcholine
  • histamine
  • 5-hydroxytryptamine

References:

  • Mitchell, J. C., Rook, A. 1979. Botanical dermatology. Greenglass Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 787 pp.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Dogs

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Hunting dogs in the United States were poisoned after massive exposure to the hairs of stinging nettle. Symptoms included trembling, pain, slobbering, dyspnea, and vomiting. Some dogs died 2-3 days after exposure without treatment (Anon. 1982).

References:

  • Anon. 1982. Stinging nettle (Urtica sp.) and dogs. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 24: 247.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Mitchell, J. C., Rook, A. 1979. Botanical dermatology. Greenglass Ltd, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 787 pp.

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