The Nettle Family

False Nettle False Nettle Stinging Nettle Common Clearweed

What are they?

Several members of this family are famous for their ability to deliver an often quite startling sting, though the effects generally don't last for long. Species found in North America are generally low-growing, herbaceous plants with one introduced species being an annual or short-lived perennial of cultivated ground. Flowers are generally greenish, small and carried in clustered spikes.

Where are they found?

Either found as colony-forming species in shady, often damp, woodland or as weeds of farmland and gardens, roadsides and waste places.


Most species are easily told by leaf and flower characteristics.

Stinging Nettle      Urtica dioica

A plant of rich, woodland soils, but can also occur as an invasive of disturbed ground. Generally uncommon in the relatively nutrient-poor gravel soils of Cape May. Flowers June to September. Easily identified if touched! Stinging Nettles can deliver a nasty sting if handled the wrong way, but the sting wears off pretty quickly, to be replaced by an annoying itch!
Stinging Nettle Stinging Nettle Stinging Nettle
Seed heads

Common Clearweed      Pilea pumila

(Canadian Clearweed) Uncommon on damp, often bare, muddy areas such as woodland tracks and ditch sides. Flowers July to October. Leaves resemble those of False Nettle but the upper leaf surface is smooth with scattered, stiff hairs. Stems and leaf petioles are translucent, giving rise to the English name.
Common Clearweed Common Clearweed Common Clearweed Common Clearweed
Leaf has coarse hairs
Stems translucent

False Nettle      Boehmeria cylindrica

A plant of usually rich, damp soils, most often found in shady woodland, but occasionally in more open locations. Flowers July to September. Flowers resemble those of Stinging Nettle but the spikes point upwards, not down. Leaves have rough on the top side but without obvious hairs.
False Nettle False Nettle False Nettle False Nettle
Leaf has rough surface
Flowers in
upright spikes
Seed heads

Mulberry-weed      Fatoua villosa

Introduced from Asia and fast becoming a noxious weed in many parts of the south-east. First recorded in Cape May County in 2014, this plant is rapidly spreading through the nursery trade. An annual weed of disturbed ground, especially in garden flower beds. Flowers July to October. Flowers are without petals and appear in ball-shaped clusters in the leaf axils. This plant is actually in the mulberry family (Moraceae) but is placed here as it quite closely resembles members of the nettle family.
Mulberry-weed Mulberry-weed Mulberry-weed Mulberry-weed
Flowers in
round clusters
Flowers close up