Family: Urticaceae, nettle family
Genus species: Urtica dioica
Leaves are heart-shaped with strongly serrated edges. Leaves and stems are covered with stinging hairs.
Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious). Flowers are small, greenish or brownish.
Common Uses and Interesting Facts:
Leaves are flavorful and high in nutrients. Cooking, crushing, or chopping disables the stinging hairs. Stinging nettle has been recommended to relieve the pain of rheumatism.
A painful skin rash is caused by brushing up against the plant. Touching the plant breaks delicate hairs and releases the three chemicals: a histamine that irritates the skin, acetylcholine that brings on a burning sensation, and hydroxytryptamine that encourages the other two chemicals.
The genus name, Urtica, is from the Latin for "stinging." The species name, dioica, is from the Latin for "two houses," referring to the dioecious nature of the plant.