Thursday, 18 December 2014

Creature 79: Urtica ferox

Another deadly stinging plant.
Urtica ferox is commonly known as Onga onga or the New Zealand tree nettle. It is in the stinging nettle genus Urtica, but it makes its more common northern hemisphere relative look like a pansy. It has a woody stem and can grow up to 5 m tall. Its leaves are elongate with a dramatically serrated fringe. They also posses needle like spines that are not your friend.

Those spines will penetrate your skin and inject a caustic neurotoxin into you with even just a light touch. The neurotoxin cause pain, numbing and limb immobilization. These symptoms can last for days in extreme cases.There has been one recorded case of someone who was heavily stung by several plants dying from the poison.

The New Zealand stinging nettle is, unsurprisingly, found in New Zealand. It is present on both main Islands usually at altitudes of over 300 m or in disturbed habitats or forest edges. I have seen some websites claiming that it is also found in Australia but I am pretty sure that is false. The kiwis can keep this one.

The genus Urtica is in the same family as the Australian plant  Dendrocnide moroides which I have talked about in an earlier post. In fact Dendrocnide moroides was originally described in the genus Urtica. While these nettles and some other members of the genus Urtica are often referred to stinging nettles, the term is usually used to refer to the species Urtica dioica.

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Angiosperms
Class: Dicotyledon
Order: Rosales
Family: Urticaceae
Genus: Urtica
Species: Urtica ferox

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