Ramie

Botanical Name :Boehmeria nivea
Family : Urticaceae
Genus : Boehmeria
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales
Species: B. nivea

Synonyms : Boehmeria tenacissima – Gaud.
Common names: Chinese grass, false nettle

Habitat: E. Asia – China to the Himalayas of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Rocky places to 1200 metres. A very common plant in China, growing in thickets, roadsides, edges of forests in mountains at elevations of 200 – 1700 metres.Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Cultivated Beds;

Description:
It is a herbaceous perennial growing to 1–2.5 m tall; the leaves are heart-shaped, 7–15 cm long and 6–12 cm broad, and white on the underside with dense small hairs—this gives it a silvery appearance; unlike nettles, the hairs do not sting. The true ramie or China Grass also called Chinese plant or white ramie is the Chinese cultivated plant. A second type, is known as green ramie or rhea and is believed to have originated in the Malay Peninsula. This type has smaller leaves which are green on the underside, and it appears to be better suited to tropical conditions

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It is hardy to zone 7 and is frost tender. It is in flower from September to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant)
The plant prefers light (sandy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

History
Ramie has been around for so long that it was even used in mummy cloths in Egypt during the period 5000–3300 BC and has been grown in China for many centuries. In the study of the “Lazarus” mummy, three types of textiles were found. The outermost cloth was heavy and coarsely woven; the innermost was the lightest and most tightly woven. The outer cloth appeared to be ramie (which Wiseman notes “contains non-fibrous material that is toxic to bacteria and fungi”—in other words, an ideal textile for mummymaking). Farmers in ancient China are also known to have used the fiber to weave clothing.

Ramie was used to produce an open weave fabric called mechera, used for shirts and dressing gowns suitable for warm climates. The French painter Raoul Dufy designed in the early 20th century patterns for prints on mechera used by the French shirtmaker Charvet.

Brazil began production in the late 1930s with production peaking in 1971. Since then, production has steadily declined as a result of competition with alternative crops, such as soybeans and the important synthetic fibres.

Properties
Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibres. It exhibits even greater strength when wet. Ramie fibre is known especially for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky lustre to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibres, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibres such as cotton or wool. It is similar to flax in absorbency, density and microscopic appearance. However it will not dye as well as cotton. Because of its high molecular crystallinity, ramie is stiff and brittle and will break if folded repeatedly in the same place; it lacks resiliency and is low in elasticity and elongation potential.

Cultivation
Requires a rich warm sandy soil that is very well drained. Intolerant of wet soils. This is a very greedy plant and can soon impoverish a soil. All plant remains, after the fibre has been removed, should be returned to the soil. Does best in areas with high temperatures and high humidity plus a rainfall of 1100cm evenly distributed throughout the year. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7.3. This species is fairly hardy in Britain when dormant, though it may require some protection in winter (a good mulch to protect the roots should be sufficient). The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The plant has been growing for many years in a sunny well-drained bed at Cambridge Botanical Gardens (which has low humidity and low rainfall), it has made a clump over 2 metres wide though it only reaches about 1.5 metres in height. Boehmeria nivea, an extremely variable species, is widespread over large areas of subtropical and tropical Asia. Its complex species includes several infraspecific taxa, four varieties of which are found in China. The sub-species B. nivea tenacissima. (Gaud.)Miquel., which produces the fibre ‘Rhea’ is a native of Malaysia and is not hardy in Britain. Rami is much cultivated in China for its fibre, with a history of cultivation going back at least 3000 years. It is also occasionally cultivated for its fibre or as an ornamental plant in Europe. A very greedy plant, it requires a lot of feeding if it is to perform well.

Propagation
Seed – sow spring in a warm greenhouse and only just cover the seed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well. Layering. Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 – 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Grow them on for their first winter in the cold frame and then plant them out in the summer.

General Uses:
A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of the stem – of excellent quality, it is used for textiles, linen etc and is said to be moth-proof. Yields are from 375 to 900 kilos of fibre (per acre?). Two to four harvests per year are possible depending upon the climate, it is harvested as the stems turn brown. Best harvested as the female flowers open according to another report. The outer bark is removed and then the fibrous inner bark is taken off and boiled before being woven into thread. The fibres are the longest known in the plant realm. The tensile strength is 7 times that of silk and 8 times that of cotton, this is improved on wetting the fibre. The fibre is also used for making paper. The leaves are removed from the stems, the stems are steamed and the fibres stripped off. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye, fresh material might require longer cooking, and they are then beaten in a Hollander beater before being made into paper.

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Despite its strength, ramie has had limited acceptance for textile use. The fibre’s extraction and cleaning are expensive, chiefly because of the several steps—involving scraping, pounding, heating, washing, or exposure to chemicals. Some or all are needed to separate the raw fibre from the adhesive gums or resins in which it is ensheathed. Spinning the fibre is made difficult by its brittle quality and low elasticity; and weaving is complicated by the hairy surface of the yarn, resulting from lack of cohesion between the fibres. The greater utilization of ramie depends upon the development of improved processing methods.

Ramie is used to make such products as industrial sewing thread, packing materials, fishing nets, and filter cloths. It is also made into fabrics for household furnishings (upholstery, canvas) and clothing, frequently in blends with other textile fibres (for instance when used in admixture with wool, shrinkage is reported to be greatly reduced when compared with pure wool.) Shorter fibres and waste are used in paper manufacture.

For the 2010 Prius, Toyota will begin using a new range of plant-derived ecological bioplastics made from the cellulose in wood or grass instead of petroleum. One of the two principal crops used is ramie.

Ramie is also used as an ornamental plant in eastern Asia.

Producers
China leads in the production of ramie and exports mainly to Japan and Europe. Other producers include Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Brazil.[7] Only a small percentage of the ramie produced is available on the international market. Japan, Germany, France and the UK are the main importers, the remaining supply is used domestically.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.

Root – peeled and boiled. A pleasant, sweet taste. We can detect very little flavour, but the root has a very strange mucilaginous texture that does not appeal to most people who have tried it. Once in the mouth, it takes a lot of chewing before it is ready to be swallowed. The leaves are used for making cakes. This report could refer to the plants use as a poultice.

Medicinal Actions & Uses
Antiphlogistic; Astringent; Demulcent; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Haemostatic; Poultice; Resolvent; Vulnerary; Women’s complaints.

Antiphlogistic, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic and vulnerary. Used to prevent miscarriages and promote the drainage of pus. The leaves are astringent and resolvent. They are used in the treatment of fluxes and wounds..The leaves are used in the treatment of fluxes and wounds. The root is used to prevent miscarriages and promote the drainage of pus. The root contains the flavonoid rutin. It is antiabortifacient, antibacterial, cooling, demulcent, diuretic, resolvent and uterosedative. It is used in the treatment of threatened abortions, colic of pregnancy, haemorrhoids, leukorrhoea, impetigo etc. The fresh root is pounded into a mush and used as a poultice.

Known Hazards : Although members of the nettle family, plants in this genus do not have stinging hairs.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Boehmeria+nivea
http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-calrecnum=1103
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramie
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Boehmeria_nivea

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm

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