June 15, 2014 12:00 AM

Travel: Oxford Botanic Garden has plants with purpose

Our guide pauses between the giant rhubarb plant and the white mulberry tree to draw attention to the virtues of the stinging nettle – “a weed,” as he says, “in anybody else’s garden,” but nurtured here. It’s a nutritious vegetable that tastes a bit like spinach. Its fiber resembles linen, and it produces a fine yellow dye. And because it thrives in soil that’s rich in phosphates and nitrogen, he explains, the nettle is commonly found in graveyards, which explains why it’s sometimes “used forensically”: A clump of nettles can mark the site where a murder victim lies buried.

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