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A NOT so Friendly Native Plant: Heartleaf Nettle or Fireweed

As a sixth generation Floridian, I encourage people to plant and protect native plants. Native plants are critical to our native pollinators and other wildlife. However, one winter afternoon as I strolled through my yard, I bent down to pull an unfamiliar weed and discovered that there is one native plant that is not welcome in my yard. As I grabbed it, I immediately felt like my hand was on fire. Read more

Why are my hands burning?

Beware of the plant Heartleaf Nettle or Fireweed botanically known as Urtica chamaedryoides. This little plant has attractive “strawberry” like leaves, square stems and pale green flowers. Unfortunately, the pretty leaves pack a mean burn due to small stinging hairs which are also found on the stem and petioles. The hairs contain irritants that can cause a serve burning sensation that last for hours. Avoid using hot water to wash your hands, since it just increases the burning sensation. The good news is that this weed is a winter annual and the summer causes them to die off naturally. For home lawns, healthy turfgrass decreases the potential for Fireweed. It grows in disturbed sites where there is moisture. If an herbicide is required, use one with the active ingredient Triclopyr to kill it.

Protecting Livestock

If horses browse Fireweed, they can develop stress symptoms. Such as; weight loss, or difficulty in swallowing and breathing for many days after consumption. In extreme cases, young horses had died after rolling in fireweed and becoming over exposed to the toxins in the leaf hairs. Keep an eye out for this weed in bare ground areas near feeding pens or watering troughs. Several herbicides for pastures have been effective. GrazonNext HL, Remedy Ultra (or comparable triclopyr ester product), or Pasturegard HL can be used for effective control of fireweed. These herbicides can be applied at any time of the year to warm-season forge grasses. There are no grazing restrictions for beef cattle with these herbicides, but lactating dairy animals must be removed for 0 to 14 days when using GrazonNext HL and Remedy Ultra, respectively, and one season for Pasturegard HL.

 

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