The first book ever on the much maligned nettles of the world presents a story of these followers of mankind and his cattle throughout history. This study centres on the most abundant and sub-cosmopolitan common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), but also deals with other nettles throughout the world. Tropical tormentors rich in species include the notorious nettle trees with their formidable stings which fascinated the Europeans after their discovery by botanists on the round-the-world trips of exploration in the 17-19th centuries. Many people on their travels will have met the nettle trees of the Indo-Malay region and other stinging nettles in North and South America, India, etc., which sting and have beautiful flowers but are called nettles; these are also dealt with. The first microscopists and their descriptions of the beautiful stinging hair; the uncovering of the mechanism of its action and the more recent elucidation of the toxins causing the characteristic symptoms is a fascinating one and takes up 3 chapters.
The book includes the 100 major scientific works published on the common stinging nettle and never brought to the notice of the general public before. The author spent six years studying the ecology of the nettle patch, its invertebrate herbivores (mainly insects) and vertebrate herbivores (cattle, deer, etc.,) and their interactions with other plants: its secret life is recorded in line drawings and photographs (1000+ individual items). It was not possible to publish these in colour but they are in full colour on a CD-ROM (300 dpi) at the back of the book. Covered also are nettle folklore, fibre use in World War I & II, as a food, fodder, herbal medicine, growth as a competitor plant, habitats, sex (unique exploding stamens), breeding systems, variation, evolution etc.!! Some the world's most beautiful butterflies would not exist without nettles.