Laportea canadensis (Canadian Wood Nettle)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Urticaceae (Nettle)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, floodplains
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:18 to 40 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle

[photo of female flowers] There are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The female flowers are green with 4 sepals of unequal size and look more like tiny curly leaves with feathery edges than flowers. They are in erect or flat branching clusters at the top of the plant.

[photo of male flowers] The male flowers are in loose branching clusters that arise from the leaf axils starting about midway up the plant. Individual flowers are less than 1/8 inch across, white to greenish with 5 tiny petals.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are oval to egg-shaped, to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, with serrated edges, a sharply pointed tip and a long stalk. Stalks are sparsely covered in stinging hairs and leaf surfaces may also have sparse, stinging hairs. Attachment is alternate. The stem is unbranched and variously covered in stinging hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a shiny, black, dry seed


Wood Nettle tends to grow in pretty sizable patches and can be a painful plant, though the stinging doesn't last long. Wood Nettle is not to be confused with Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), which has narrower leaves oppositely attached. False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) is another similar species, but it is hairless, its flower clusters are unbranched, and its leaves are also opposite. Wood Nettle is a host plant for a number of insects and butterflies and it is not unusual to see small egg-shaped or round, berry-like galls on the leaves or flower clusters.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Chisago and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: randy - St. Paul
on: 2008-06-18 22:34:06

This plant is everywhere in Crosby Park in st. paul. It actually makes a nice understory in the woods there. I made the mistake of walking through a bunch of it with shorts on one time. The beautiful red admiral butterfly eats this so its definitely worth having around.

Posted by: Lynnette - SE Dakota County
on: 2011-08-15 15:50:21

Our lower property in extreme SE Dakota county is in a 100 year flood plane. The understory is almost solid wood nettles. We harvested some before bloom, cooked and froze them to use as a vegetable this winter. I am told they taste better than stinging nettles.

Posted by: Luther - St. Cloud
on: 2015-05-28 12:42:53

Found it growing like mad in my small back woods here in town. ID'ed it with the help of Heather Holm, a landscape designer in the TC area. She graciously offered some recommendations of other native species to introduce to offer some variety and competition to it to restore some balance to what is a very unruly patch of it that had taken over in my plot of woods: Large leaved aster, poke milkweed, tall bellflower (Campanula americana), fireweed, Canada anemone, obedient plant.

Posted by: KR - Excelsior
on: 2015-10-10 12:31:47

This stuff has taken over our fern garden on the north side of our house. I stepped in it this morning and have lovely boils to show for it. Nasty stuff in the garden.

Posted by: Jane - Faribault House Woods, Mendota
on: 2016-05-23 12:33:14

If you want to see wood nettle growing in the wild near the Twin Cities, just visit the historic Sibley and Faribault house in Mendota and take a walk through the tunnel onto the Dakota trail of the Fort Snelling State Park. There are masses of a plant that looks like this wood nettle all through the floodplain forest. The trail is wide enough that you don't have to brush past vegetation. I've never found any ticks crawling on me after visiting those trails either in 10 years, so explore away!

Posted by: Leah B - Plymouth, West Medicine Lake Park
on: 2017-07-13 22:38:43

Across the road from the park, there is a nice quiet trail. There is quite a bit of this plant to be found there.

Posted by: Thomas O Martin - Medina, just north of Long Lake
on: 2018-05-29 07:51:55

Very invasive. Spreads both by seed, and rapidly growing rhysomes. It harbors native pollinators, but should I allow it to overtake acres of woodland containing sedge, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, etc.?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-05-30 19:17:09

Thomas, I wouldn't call wood nettle invasive, though it can be abundant in favorable conditions. It is very common in moist woods and was likely a dominant species in your woods pre-buckthorn. You've simply released the seed bank. It's native and part of the woodland ecosystem.

Posted by: Kathy & Doug Wood - Stearns county north of Sartell in our woods
on: 2020-02-13 03:18:56

This stuff is so nasty and almost impossible to get rid of.

Posted by: John - Carver County, south shore Lake Minnetonka
on: 2020-07-02 13:10:25

This plant has pushed out almost every other plant not grown in a garden! In the Baycliffe neighborhoods, with deeply shade lots, the streets are lined with huge growths. The more open the woods, the more plants.

Posted by: Paula - Nowthen
on: 2020-10-12 06:20:29

We've lived here 30-plus years and it must have been just a few plants in our woods at one time. As trees have fallen and some sun is filtering in, these plants have spread a lot. I'd like to control the spread. Don't want to lose other native vegetation.

Posted by: Tim McKeag - Frontenac state park
on: 2022-08-01 12:18:22

Large community of wood nettle in lower level of Frontenac State Park.

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