8 Stinging Nettle Lookalikes to Easily Recognize

8 Stinging Nettle Lookalikes to Easily Recognize

8 Stinging Nettle Lookalikes to Easily Recognize

Introduction

When it comes to foraging for wild edibles, it is essential to properly identify the plants you encounter. While stinging nettles are a fantastic addition to any survivalist’s pantry, it is equally crucial to know which plants resemble stinging nettles but are not. Mistakenly harvesting and ingesting a lookalike plant can lead to unpleasant experiences or, in some cases, even poisoning. In this article, we will discuss eight stinging nettle lookalikes that you should be able to easily recognize to avoid any misidentification mishaps.

1. Clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Clearweed, also known as Canadian clearweed or richweed, is a native plant found in wooded areas and moist habitats. It closely resembles stinging nettle due to its similar height, leaf shape, and overall appearance. However, there is one significant difference: clearweed does not have stinging hairs. You can easily identify this plant by rubbing its stems between your fingers. If it’s clear and unbranched, you’re looking at clearweed, not stinging nettle.

Key characteristics of clearweed:
– Height: 1 to 3 feet tall
– Leaves: Opposite, asymmetrical, and toothed edges
– Flowers: Small, greenish-white flowers

Tips:

– Be careful not to confuse the non-stinging clearweed with stinging nettle.
– When in doubt, always verify a plant’s identity by consulting reliable field guides or experts.

2. False nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)

False nettle is another plant that resembles stinging nettle but lacks the stinging hairs. It grows in moist woodlands, thickets, and disturbed areas. The leaves of false nettle are similar to stinging nettle but lack the serrated edges. Additionally, false nettle’s flowers are small and green, while stinging nettle’s flowers are more showy and white-yellowish.

Key characteristics of false nettle:
– Height: 2 to 4 feet tall
– Leaves: Opposite, heart-shaped, with a pointed tip
– Flowers: Small, greenish, and inconspicuous

Tips:

– False nettle is safe to touch and handle, making it easier to differentiate from stinging nettle.
– Remember to pay close attention to the leaf edges and flower appearance for accurate identification.

3. Wood nettle (Laportea canadensis)

Wood nettle, also known as tall nettle or dwarf nettle, is a close relative of stinging nettle. It grows in moist forests, rich thickets, and along stream banks. The plant is easily identifiable by its hairy leaves and prominently ridged stems. While wood nettle does have stinging hairs, they are generally less aggressive than stinging nettle’s.

Key characteristics of wood nettle:
– Height: 3 to 7 feet tall
– Leaves: Coarsely toothed, alternate, and hairy
– Flowers: Small, greenish, and hanging in clusters

Tips:

– Although wood nettle does have stinging hairs, they are usually milder compared to stinging nettle. However, it is still advisable to handle this plant with caution.
– Pay attention to the leaf arrangement and hairy texture to distinguish wood nettle from stinging nettle.

4. White dead-nettle (Lamium album)

White dead-nettle, also known as white archangel, is a member of the mint family and looks similar to stinging nettle, especially during early spring. However, this plant lacks stinging hairs and has white to pinkish flowers. White dead-nettle prefers shaded areas, disturbed habitats, and fields.

Key characteristics of white dead-nettle:
– Height: 1 to 2 feet tall
– Leaves: Opposite, heart-shaped, and toothed
– Flowers: White or pinkish, tubular-shaped, and arranged in whorls

Tips:

– White dead-nettle is safe to touch and handle.
– Observe the tubular-shaped flowers and heart-shaped leaves to differentiate white dead-nettle from stinging nettle.

5. Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Henbit is another member of the mint family that resembles stinging nettle but lacks the stinging hairs. This plant thrives in disturbed areas, lawns, and gardens. Henbit’s leaves are similar in shape to stinging nettle, but they have rounded lobes and toothed edges. The flowers of henbit are small, tubular, and range in color from pink to purple.

Key characteristics of henbit:
– Height: 4 to 12 inches tall
– Leaves: Opposite, rounded lobes, and toothed
– Flowers: Small, tubular, and pink to purple in color

Tips:

– Henbit is safe to handle without any risk of stinging.
– Keep an eye out for the distinctive rounded leaf lobes and tubular flowers to differentiate henbit from stinging nettle.

6. Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Dead-nettle, also a member of the mint family, shares a resemblance to stinging nettle, but it does not have stinging hairs. This plant thrives in disturbed areas, lawns, and gardens. Dead-nettle’s leaves are opposite and toothed, similar to stinging nettle, but they lack the stinging sensation. The flowers of dead-nettle are small, tubular, and can be pink to purple in color.

Key characteristics of dead-nettle:
– Height: 4 to 12 inches tall
– Leaves: Opposite, toothed, and without stinging hairs
– Flowers: Small, tubular, and can be pink to purple in color

Tips:

– Dead-nettle is safe to handle and touch without any stinging effects.
– Look for the absence of stinging hairs and the tubular shape of the flowers to differentiate dead-nettle from stinging nettle.

7. False nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)

False nettle, also known as bog hemp, is a plant that closely resembles stinging nettle but lacks the stinging hairs. It grows in moist woodlands, along stream banks, and in disturbed areas. False nettle’s leaves are similar to stinging nettle but lack the serrated edges. Additionally, false nettle’s flowers are small and green, while stinging nettle’s flowers are more showy and white-yellowish.

Key characteristics of false nettle:
– Height: 2 to 8 feet tall
– Leaves: Opposite, heart-shaped, and pointed
– Flowers: Small, greenish, and inconspicuous

Tips:

– False nettle is safe to touch and handle, making it easier to differentiate from stinging nettle.
– Pay close attention to the leaf edges and flower appearance to accurately identify false nettle.

8. Spurge (Euphorbia spp.)

Spurge is a diverse genus of plants that comes in various shapes and sizes, some of which can resemble stinging nettle. However, spurge plants contain a milky sap that can irritate the skin and cause discomfort if you come into contact with it. It is essential to exercise caution when handling any plant from the spurge family.

Key characteristics of spurge:
– Height: Varies depending on the species
– Leaves: Varies depending on the species; some have similar shapes to stinging nettle
– Flowers: Insignificant or small, depending on the species

Tips:

– While some species of spurge may resemble stinging nettle, be cautious about handling any plant from the spurge family due to their irritating sap.
– Consult reliable field guides or experts to properly identify spurge species and avoid any potential skin irritation or discomfort.

Conclusion

Proper plant identification is crucial when foraging for wild edibles. Stinging nettles have many lookalikes, and misidentifying these plants can have serious consequences. By familiarizing yourself with the key characteristics of stinging nettle and its lookalikes, you can enjoy the benefits of foraging without any negative repercussions. Remember always to double-check your plant identification and when in doubt, seek guidance from experts or reliable resources.

My 2 Cents

Identifying stinging nettle lookalikes is a skill that can be honed with practice and observation. When venturing into the wild, make sure you carry reliable field guides or reference materials to aid in plant identification. It is better to be cautious and avoid harvesting a plant if you are unsure about its identity. Remember, the goal is to gather edible plants safely and sustainably. Stay curious, keep exploring, and enjoy the wonders of the natural world!