Urtica dioica (common nettle)

Urtica dioica is a common nettle that if touched will cause a stinging sensation and irritation to the skin. Heating the irritated area of skin or the sting will help reduce the pain and neutralise it. 

A Little Bit of the Ecology of the River Weaver Footpath #2 - March

On to March, and a host of new species are beginning to make themselves known as my college year progresses…this month you get the common nettle (Urtica dioica), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) & pipistrelle bat species (Pipistrellus spp.)….don’t worry, I’ll explain the importance of the wildflowers…

Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 3))

So, the common or stinging nettle is a plant you are probably familiar with; it is, after all, one of the most common and widespread wildflowers in the UK. It has no habitat requirements; typically it thrives on high nutrient waste ground or farm edges that have been fertilised to the point where little else can grow. The flowers appear from June to September though there are overlooked; far from the obvious blues, reds & yellows of other wildflowers the common nettle has spikes of tiny green flowers that droop like catkins.

Some specific benefits the nettle provides are that it is a larval food-plant for some beautiful butterfly species including (but not limited to) the small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) & the peacock (Inachis io). It also is one of the many vegetative species that make up the diet of the water vole (Arvicola terrestris), one of the rarest native mammals of the UK. In addition, if you want to try, taking the top leaves off of fresh growth can add more than a little boost to homemade soups or even teas! Be sure to wash it first though…   

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 13))

This wildflower gets its name from the garlic scent released when you bruise/crush the leaves; it’s alternative name which I happen to love is Jack-by-the-hedge, derived from its association with hedgerows, although it in fact inhabits a wide range of habitats such as woodlands & waste ground. It’s main association that I’m aware of (but remember I’m just a student) is its relationship with the green-veined white butterfly (Pieris napi). This butterfly lays its eggs on the long leaf stems of garlic mustard (called petioles, hence the wildflowers scientific name of Alliaria petiolata). The garlic mustard by the weaver footpath is young, though it will begin to flower soon in April and continue through to June. Why not check out the petioles yourself this summer? Be careful about butterfly eggs though!

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 15))

So I began to hear pipistrelle species on the way back from college last night though it is impossible for my untrained self to tell them apart at present. There are three species of pipistrelle bat in the UK and they all inhabit Cheshire; they are the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle (P. pygmaeus) & Nathusius' pipistrelle (P. nathusii). Two are known to live nearby at Reaseheath College (the common & soprano pipistrelles). The usual method of survey for bats is to use heterodyne detectors which, in essence, translate the echolocation calls of bats to a frequency audible to the human ear. Pipistrelle species echolocate at frequencies between 45 - 55khz and this usually is heard through the detector as rapid wet ‘slapping’ sounds, though if they are approaching an insect the calls appear quicker and quicker through the detector because the echolocation calls are bouncing back a shorter distance between the bat and the insect. This can be heard as a 'tizzing’ sound and if you give this a go yourself you’ll have more luck over water bodies where more invertebrates live (midges, etc) that are suitable prey for bats.

Post over…..welcome to Spring!


More Info

1) My Previous Post On The Weaver Footpath Ecology: 

2) NatureSpot Homepage: 

3) Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) Factfile: 

4) Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) Factfile: 

5) Peacock (Inachis io) Factfile:  

6) Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris):  

7) Video Of Water Vole Eating Common Nettle: 

8) The Botanical Society Of The British Isles (BSBI) Homepage: 

9) BSBI Facebook Page:  

10) UK Butterflies Homepage: 

11) The Mammal Society Homepage: 

12) The Mammal Society Facebook Page: 

13) Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Factfile: 

14) Green-veined White (Pieris napi) Factfile:

15) Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Factfile:

16) Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) Factfile:  

17) Nathusius’ Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) Factfile: 

18) Mammal Species List For Cheshire: 

19) Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Homepage: 

20) BCT Facebook Page: 

21) Cheshire Mammal Group (CMaG) Homepage: 

22) CMaG Facebook Group: 

Macro Photography : Small copper by tim62

Macro Photography : Small copper by tim62

2014 © Teun Timmerman, all rights reserved.

Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) on Common nettle (Urtica dioica). Vledderveld near Vledder, Drenthe, Netherlands, summer 2014.

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A detailed account and drawing of my fictional fireflowers. I know absolutely nothing about how flowers work except some vague stuff about photosynthesis, so half of this may be impossible. For those who can’t read the picture, here’s a list of the information. Urtica Ignis (Fire Nettle - common name Fireflower) Plant is ready to harvest from August - May. Nettle protects flower during winter. Edges of petals look burned. Often grows in graveyards due to undisturbed soil. Nettles and flowers are two separate plants that grow together gathering food for each other. Flower is member of lily family. Lilium Ignis. Orange with accents of yellow, blue, red, and black. Edges of nettles will sting and irritate bare skin. Will disfigure skin if handled often enough. If picked seperately, the remaining plant will die without partner. Silver pollen.