Thursday, April 13, 2006
BAD PLANT, BAD, BAD PLANT!!
I remember the exact moment I first encountered this plant. I was about 10 years old and at a wedding reception at the Ponce DeLeon Resort in St. Augustine. While running around outside the reception hall with my tie stuffed in my pocket and new grass stains on my dress pants, I spied some white flowers.
I picked 'em.
About 5 seconds later, my hands lit up with a burning, itchy sting.
I had just met the Stinging Nettle.
In April, these things pop up under my oaks like little land mines just waiting the bare foot. When my kids were little, they seemed to have an uncanny knack for stepping on them. Where I get a few moments of stingy discomfort, they would get a little cluster of blisters at the point of contact. It was usually good for a popsicle and some comfort time with the "poisoned foot" propped up watching Raffi or Barney. ( Not for me...for them)
You can...(not recommending this now)...reach down below ground level, grasp the stem and pick this plant without getting stung. The chemical laden hairs that sting are above ground level only. I know...why would you want to do that? I share information here, I never said it was all sensible.
In the spring, when these things are popping up like triffids, I scuff them out of the ground with my sneakered foot while walking the property. I figure each one that gets a case of "sneakerus floweringus interruptus" is one less set of seeds and new nettles for next year. This seems to work, because there are a lot less of them along my "game trails" then out in the woods.
This may be the one plant that the deer won't eat, but everybody gets eaten by something. Even these irritable little plants. Once while Rangering at Fort Matanzas, I watched a very fast, very orange caterpillar munching a nettle. I didn't identify the caterpillar at the time...
...but I remember being impressed.
Posted by R.Powers at 7:43 AM