Australian Nettle: A Painful but Useful Plant
Australian nettle is a common name for several plants in the nettle family Urticaceae that grow in Australia and have stinging hairs on their leaves and stems. These plants can cause intense pain and irritation when touched, but they also have some edible and medicinal uses. In this article, we will explore some of the most common and notorious Australian nettle species and their characteristics, distribution, and benefits.
Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the stinging tree, stinging bush, Queensland stinger, or gympie-gympie, is one of the most painful Australian nettle species. It is a perennial shrub or small tree that grows up to 10 m (33 ft) tall in rainforest areas of Malaysia and Australia. It has large, heart-shaped leaves that are peltate, meaning the stalk attaches to the underside of the leaf and not at the edge. The leaves, stems, fruits, and flowers are all covered in fine stinging hairs that can inject a neurotoxin into the skin when touched. The sting can cause severe pain, burning, itching, swelling, and numbness that can last for hours, days, or even months. Some people have reported allergic reactions, anaphylactic shock, or even death after being stung by this plant.
Despite its formidable reputation, Dendrocnide moroides also has some edible and medicinal uses. The fruits are edible if the hairs are removed, and have a sweet and sour taste similar to a mulberry. The leaves can also be eaten after being cooked or processed to remove the hairs. Indigenous Australians used the leaves as a vegetable and baked them between hot stones. They also used the plant to treat rheumatism, toothache, and stingray wounds. Colonists used the plant to make a tonic for \”clearing the blood\”.
Urtica incisa, also known as scrub nettle, stinging nettle, or tall nettle, is another common Australian nettle species. It is an upright perennial herb that grows up to 2 m (6.6 ft) tall in streams and rainforest areas of eastern and southern Australia and New Zealand. It has triangular leaves that are opposite and serrated, with stinging hairs on both surfaces. The flowers are small and greenish-white, and are borne in clusters in the leaf axils. The sting of this plant is less severe than Dendrocnide moroides, but still causes pain and itching that can last for several minutes or hours.
Urtica incisa also has some edible and medicinal uses. The leaves can be eaten after being cooked or soaked in water to remove the hairs. They are rich in vitamin C, iron, calcium, and protein. Indigenous Australians ate the leaves as a vegetable and used them to treat skin diseases, insect bites, arthritis, and urinary problems. Colonists also used the plant as a food source and a tonic for \”purifying the blood\”.
Australian nettle is a name for several plants that belong to the nettle family Urticaceae and have stinging hairs on their leaves and stems. These plants can cause intense pain and irritation when touched, but they also have some edible and medicinal uses. Some of the most common and notorious Australian nettle species are Dendrocnide moroides and Urtica incisa. These plants grow in rainforest areas of Australia and New Zealand and have different characteristics, distribution, and benefits.