The Sting in the Tale

Nettles are the pirates of our wild flora. A lawless, cavalier rabble, they run riot and behave badly. Brush up against them and you’ll know all about it. They are the plant that most of us love to hate. But, like most villains, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Named after the Anglo-Saxon word for needle, nettles are said to have been brought to British shores by the Romans. It’s believed that legionaries would whip themselves with the stinging leaves to keep warm in the cold climate and to treat tired, painful legs on long marches.

Nettles are also the guardian angels of butterflies – and, whether they know it or not, of gardeners. That’s because nettles not only keep caterpillars well fed as they prepare to transform but, by default, stop them from crawling away to feed off other plants. Nettles do the same with sap-guzzling aphids, which they allow to gorge on them and stunt their growth in an act of silent heroism. The plant’s spines protect ladybirds from predators, enabling the beautiful bugs to grow in safety, and its seeds feed birds in late summer. A softer side indeed to all that spikiness.

‘Nettles are the pirates of our wild flora. But, like
most villains, there is more to them than meets
the eye’

Nettles also taste delicious. You can make soup from them, or tea, beer or wine. You can cook nettles and eat them like spinach, bursting as they are with iron, calcium, minerals and vitamins. And, believe it or not, you can even make dye and fabric out of nettles. For a plant that likes to paint itself as a rebel, the nettle is surprisingly helpful.

At Jo Malone London, we’ve paired nettles with Wild Achillea for one of our Wild Flowers & Weeds collection scents, Nettle & Wild Achillea, to bring a fresh, earthy bite to the story. A flash of unmistakable green brightness from one of nature’s great survivors.

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