How Does a Nettle Sting?

There are several species of nettle, not all of which have stinging hairs. Most people, however, have suffered a nettle and the Roman nettle are the best known. The latter has the most painful sting of all nettles. The stinging action of the nettle is very similar to the stinging cells in the tentacles of the sea-anemone. It has delicate, trigger  like coil in a cell, its sharp point being released on the slightest touch.

The nettle-string is developed from a single cells with the walls of the hair silicified, a small knob protects the fine point until touched, when it breaks and allows the trigger to penetrate the skin. It is and acrid juice which causes irritation and, sometimes, inflammation of the skin.

If one is careful, however , to grasp the nettle in such a way that the hairs are pressed ti the stem, they cannot pierce the skin, and the nettle can be plucked painlessly.

In many countries, boiled nettles have a special food value for pigs and poultry. The roots boiled in alum produce a yellow dye, and the leaves and stalks give a green dye. The "ramie" (fibers) of different species of nettle are used to make lace, cloth, rope and yarn.

The nettles proper are annual or perennial herbs, sometimes with shrubby bases, and they make up the genus Urtica. Several tress of different genera, in particular the giant nettle of Australia, are given that name. 

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