Crowding out competition

Stinging nettles are probably Britain's least liked plant, but they are one of Chris Packham's favourites. They support an amazing community of insects - ones that feed on nettles and predators that eat those. A nettle bed is pretty much a monoculture. They manage this by having phenoplasticity - a scientific term. Nettles want to shade out all the other plants, and they change their shape and the angle of their leaves - the phenoplasticity - in order to do this. Eventually nothing can grow under the nettle because they get all the light. Nettles are an important food plant for the small tortoiseshell butterfly, which has been in decline in recent years. If you can tolerate 1 or 2 square metres of nettles at the bottom of your garden, then you'd be helping butterflies. And nettles are edible too - thouugh be careful to fold the leaves so that you don't get stung.

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