Thursday, 26 January 2012

Small Nettle Re-visited

Back in July 2009 I wrote about some new plant finds - one of which was Small Nettle (Urtica urens). In that blog entry I wrote:
"This is a smaller, more delicate, annual relative of the Common ‘Stinging’ Nettle (it also stings, by the way!). It is generally considered to be an ‘archeophyte’ – that is a plant introduced into this country, from elsewhere in the world (in this case continental Europe), before the wholly arbitrary date of 1500 AD. Like most archeophytes the seed probably arrived as a contaminant of
the crop seeds which were traded between European countries for millennia."
Since then I have found a few more examples - but it's still quite uncommon round here. Perhaps the most unusual site that I found for it was beside a bus stop opposite Stretford Mall!
As I mentioned in my last posting here, over the Christmas holiday period I stayed with my brother in his new house in North Norfolk (not far from Sandringham - now there's posh!). The countryside in that part of the world is sublime and I spent many happy hours wandering the local heaths, fields and lanes and getting pleasantly lost.
At one point I was ambling along a field boundary, trying to suppress the mild panic arising from the fact that I was fairly thoroughly lost by that point (obviously I managed to find my way back eventually - other-wise I wouldn't be writing this!). I suddenly realised that to my left was a grassy verge full of Common Nettle (U. dioica) and to my right a fallow, ploughed field full of Small Nettle. In spite of the fact that some members of these two populations were literally only inches apart there was no overlap. It just goes to show how precise that habitat requirements of some plants are and why, in South Manchester, Small Nettle is now confined to small areas of disturbed ground such as allotments and 'scuffed up' bits of ground beside bus stops!

Dave Bishop, January 2012

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