Roses are red, violets are blue, what the heck are you?
January 29, 2009 9:53 PM   Subscribe

What the heck is this plant? It's tall and covered with little thorn-like spikes. It's sideways on the pic because it fell over. I've been trying to grow tomato plants, some spinach, red peppers, and chives in a makeshift planter box, and I know this thing isn't any of the above. Is it friend or foe? Is it just some weed? Multiple pics here.
posted by edjusted to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Try tearing off a leaf and crushing it, or tearing it further into little pieces. Does it smell like anything familiar? (my guess is that its a type of mint)
posted by iamkimiam at 11:10 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: It looks like it's related to mint, but so are nettles. Based on the little thorns, you might want to wear gloves when tearing off a leaf to crush it -- if it doesn't smell like mint, I'm going to guess it's some sort of nettle.
posted by rossmik at 11:41 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: Could be some species of nettle 1, 2.
posted by Rumple at 11:41 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: More evidence for nettle: here, esp. here, compared with your third picture. Pull the weed out with long sleeves and leather gloves. The sting is more unpleasant than harmful, but still, you will want to avoid it
posted by rossmik at 11:53 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: They look like nettles to me too. Make tea or soup!
posted by Magnakai at 1:18 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: Definitely fully grown stinging nettles, no doubt about it. Looks just like the nettles I grew up around. Wear gloves when removing them. They make decent tea/soup only as young shoots, in my experience, and you have to be careful preparing it.
posted by gemmy at 1:27 AM on January 30, 2009

The leaves look like shiso (served with sushi) but i've never seen it growing on a plant so I'm not certain.
posted by simbiotic at 8:49 AM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: *does* look very similar to the pic of the nettles. Thanks, gang! How would it have gotten into my back yard? Just random seeds flying around in the wind?
posted by edjusted at 9:26 AM on January 30, 2009

Looks more like blackberries than stinging nettle to me.
posted by rhizome at 9:47 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: Another vote for nettle, which I'd say is more friend than foe, despite the sting. Touching it would be a painful way to make sure, so proceed with caution.

It's just one of those plants that shows up sometimes. Not terribly invasive, as far as those things go. I had some appear in a pot on my deck. I didn't know what it was before I pulled it out of the ground. It was just my fingertips, but it hurt pretty bad (though not for very long).

I've heard you can cook with them, treating them basically like spinach or other tender greens. Once cooked, the sting disappears and they're harmless. You'll have to decide if that hazmat-like approach is worth the trouble.
posted by O9scar at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: I really think it's pretty clear that it's a kind of nettle, which can grow anywhere and spread easily and fast, just like any other type of weeds. One of my pics of European stinging nettles is here.

If you have any doubt at all, touch it with the side of your arm or leg (I suggest doing it gently). If it's a nettle, it will sting you, which hurts a little at first but goes away pretty quickly to become just annoying for an hour or so. Apply calamine lotion or an antihistamine spray and it goes away even faster.
posted by gemmy at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: It's nettle. I've eaten them. Though I'm not sure it's special enough to keep it around, especially in a place where you're going to brush against it. There was probably a seed in your soil mix, or in any potted plants you may have used.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone!
posted by edjusted at 4:48 PM on January 30, 2009

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