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Cnidoscolus stimulosus
Tread Softly - Spurge Nettle

Beware. Ooooooh! Ouch! What was that? It gotcha. Whooooa, it's the nettle. And that's the power of the stinging nettle, sometimes known as the spurge nettle, or finger rot, or even tread softy.

Horse NettleIt can grow from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas.

This is a perennial plant which can reach 39 inches in length. Almost the entire plant is covered in stinging hairs: the leaves and the stems. The leaves can be three or five lobed, reminding me of maple leaves.

The flowers are cute, white, five lobed and do not have yellow stamens as similar looking flowers do. It flowers from early spring through the fall.

It grows in dry, sandy, woods. Direct sun or shade. It seems that the more tended your garden is, the less this plant shows up.

Do not try to eradicate this weed unless you are well protected. Pulling out with leather gloves (not cloth gloves) may be necessary. I use heavy gloves and a trowel to get at the root. Then pick it up by the root which has less stinging hairs. While you are doing this make sure the top of the plant does not swing over and touch your arm. Check what is available in your state for a systematic eradication program.

If you have ever been bitten by fire ants...this may be worse.

Wicked Plant

In her book, "Wicked Plants," Amy Stewart gives this type of plant an entire chapter.