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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - December 26, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Looking for stinging nettle not exposed to pesticides or exhaust
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, Thank you for providing this service! I'm interested in foraging and wild edibles in Austin and am wondering if anyone can tell me a spot where I could harvest some Stinging Nettle that is unexposed to exhaust or pesticides. If you have any other special recommendations for local wild edibles that grow in abundance, I would be appreciative!

ANSWER:

If you are referring to Urtica dioica (Stinging nettle), it is shown in Turner et al. Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Texas as occurring in Texas only in Wheeler County in the Panhandle.  Urtica chamaedryoides (Heartleaf nettle), however, does occur in Travis County.  It is also called "stinging nettle" by some and, indeed, Green Deane on the Eat the Weeds website calls it "the nettle that stings the worst".  Unfortunately, I don't have first hand knowledge about where it might occur at all and certainly not where plants that haven't been exposed to pesticides or exhaust from automobiles could be found.  I think your best bet for finding such stinging nettles is by contacting fellow wild food foragers.   In the Austin area there is the Texas Wild Plant and Food Foragers.  On Facebook you can find the Wild Food and Foraging Austin page.  You might also try contacting someone in the Austin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

For foraging in Texas there is Foraging Texas:  Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest and Wild Edible Plants of Texas websites.  And, if you don't already know it, there is the 2013 book by Delena Tull, Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest:  Texas, Mexico and Arizona available in the Wildflower Center store.  This is the revised version of her 2009 publication Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest.

Here are three different discussions about edible native plants in the Austin area by another Mr. Smarty Plants contributor that you may find interesting:  discussion #1, discussion #2 and discussion #3.

 

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