Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

There aren't many plants in the world that I really dislike. I can only think of two.

The first is poison ivy. This statement sums up my own opinion quite well:
Poison Ivy needs to die. Every single specimen of this evil, evil plant needs to wither up and return to whichever layer of Hell it spawned from. The United Nations needs to create a unique task force of highly educated, specially trained combat veterans to traverse the globe with chemically-enhanced, military grade Weed-B-Gone, and erase this nightmarish abomination from existence.
Coming in at close second is stinging nettles.

The pain and agony inflicted by these dreadful creatures is well-known to every child in the UK. As for me, well, I had to learn the hard way.

When we moved to Cumbria last year, my first task was clearing the back lawn so the dogs could run around loose. The grass was waist-high and there were briars and thistles so I was careful to wear jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and gloves. Days passed. Every day, I'd have numb hands and arms and an ache so deep in my bones -- but no idea what was causing it. It didn't take long though to figure out the culprit who shall forever be on my death-wish list.

Imagine my surprise then when I started reading articles in the paper about "nettle soup" and other recipes with "nettles" as a main ingredient. Surely they don't mean ... But they did. A glimpse of a program on tv showed a heavily-clothed woman gathering nettles for dinner. I couldn't watch.

For further information on stinging nettles, visit The Poison Garden Website.

That's it for me. My arms hurt just thinking about this.

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

This is our first day back in the UK and I'm amazed by change. The dandelion blossoms that choked our lawn are gone and the forsythia and daffodils have passed. Yellows have been replaced by whites.

Most prominent in this rural landscape is the cow parsley. It borders almost every sunny lane. It's not a particularly beautiful plant but it's remarkable how quickly it grew from nothing noticable (when we left 3 weeks ago) to waist high. At first, I thought it might be Queen Anne's Lace but it didn't look exactly as I remembered from the US.

Queen Anne's Lace, in the US, is another name for wild carrot or Daucus carota (see illustration). The head of the flower is like an umbrella when the wind's caught it, turning it inside out. the stalk is usually straight, the leaves divided. The plant I'm seeing now, in the UK, is very similar but from an entirely different family.

Queen Anne's Lace, here in the UK and according to Collins Nature Guide, is another name for cow parsley or Anthriscus sylvestris.
The stems branch, with a set of leaves emerging from each crook. The leaves have sharp edges but are not divided. It's a shaggy bit of a plant growing along the roadsides and rail lines. Not beautiful to me but endearing to others.

Leaves of the common carrot

Common carrot leaves

Cow parsley leaves

Cow parsley leaves

So you see, my first guess of Queen Anne's Lace was, in a weird and twisted way, correct after all.