Stinging Nettles

Last Friday M took off early from work and we went for a hike in the Laurels Preserves. We hiked there back in March when things were still looking pretty brown and sparse. Compare and contrast the landscape on our ride to the preserves:

(March 2007)

Look at it now:

(May 2007)

Everything is so green and lush and colorful. The light is different, too.

We hiked for about 4 miles, stopping along the way to have a picnic lunch. The day was gorgeous, with temperatures in the low 70’s and a nice breeze keeping us relatively cool as the sun tried to heat us up.

(Redbud in bloom)

Redbuds and dogwoods were all dressed out in their spring clothing. The wildflowers are just starting to bloom and there were quite a few specks of color dotting the landscape.

I learned a valuable lesson while taking close-ups of the wildflowers. Be careful where you place your knee.

I was kneeling on my right knee to take a photo of this flower:

Pretty little thing, isn’t it? I don’t know what it is (I haven’t had time to try to identify any of the flowers yet), but I have identified the fuzzy leaf to the right. Stinging nettles.

Back in the olden days, when M and I were dating, I went to visit him in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful, very warm summer day so we went to a local swimming hole where there was a rope swing. At some point I was in need of a loo (restroom, toilet, etc.) and of course there were no loos in the woods other than the woods themselves. I went wondering off in search of privacy. I found the much needed privacy. I also found a patch of stinging nettles. I walked out of there with burning/stinging legs and massive hives all over my legs.

Stinging nettles (Urtica species, Laportea Candensis) are pretty intense. They’re covered with tiny, nearly invisible hairs that cause an extreme stinging/burning pain (the generic name comes from the Latin word “uro” which means “I burn”). This is quickly followed by hives and a red swelling of the area that came in contact with the nettles. The reaction is incredibly quick and doesn’t last more than 12-24 hours. Rinsing off with cold water relieves some of the stinging/burning, but the area (at least for me) stays warm for quite a while afterwards. If it wasn’t for that intense pain in the beginning, it might make a good topical arthritis treatment.

So there I was, kneeling on the ground, when I felt some stinging in my knee. It should be noted I was wearing shorts. Had I been wearing long pants it’s pretty unlikely I’d have noticed the nettles. At first I thought I’d managed to put my knee down in a patch of burrs or briars. In the time it took me to stand up and look at my knee (about a second or two), the stinging intensified, the rash appeared, and I thought “Uh oh. I got into something I shouldn’t have gotten into.”

The pain was familiar and it didn’t take me long to figure out I’d managed to place my knee smack dab in the middle of a stinging nettle plant. M was quite a ways ahead of me so I hobbled as quickly as I could to catch up with him. We went down to the creek where I was able to wash my knee which did help for a little while.

The good thing about stinging nettles is that, unlike poison ivy, the pain and rash don’t last long. My knee was back to normal by the next day. It didn’t stop me from continuing the hike either. Not that I had a choice. We’d walked 2 miles out. We had to walk 2 miles back.

Aside from the nettles, it was a very nice hike. I’ll leave you with a few photos so you can enjoy the hike too.

This was the hill we climbed during our last hike of the area:

The greens amazed me in their brilliance and intensity.

A sure sign that spring has arrived:

The red-winged blackbird.

Next up: Photos from the ride home. I still can’t get over how beautiful it is in this area of Pennsylvania (the result of which is that I take far too many photos and you all are forced to watch my slide show when you come to visit me).

A very full weekend

M and I have been busy this weekend.  It’s going to take me a little while to catch my breath and get caught up with myself.  When that happens, I’ll be back with lots to show and tell.

In the meantime, I leave you with some of the many gorgeous tulips I photographed at Longwood Gardens on this beautiful Sunday.