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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Do you have any information on Sting Nettle?


QUESTION:
I am particularly interested in Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica.) I have a friend who had two of her horses immediately perish after coming in contact with this plant. This plant was not ingested.  Unfortunately, it seems that this plant is extremely toxic to horses and there is no information that we can find which links this toxicity to horses. Not even UC Davis has any information linking the toxicity to horses.

ANSWER:

There are many unrelated species of plants called nettle, some of which are poisonous. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioca) is not thought to be particularly toxic. Have you got a picture of the plant you think might be nettle or perhaps a sample? It is also possible for the the horse to have contacted nettle and died of unrelated, but unknown causes. I have seen horses walk through and even eat Urtica without complaint, much less dropping dead. Barring a idiosyncratic allergy to the nettle or misidentification of a poisonous plant as stinging nettle, could there have been any other sources of injury (other plants, lightning, etc.)?