Botanical Name: Boehmeria nipononivea
Family : Urticaceae – nettles
Superorder : Rosanae
Order : Rosales
Genus : Boehmeria Jacq. – false nettle
Species : Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich. – Chinese
Common Names: Ramie
Habitat: Boehmeria nipononivea is native to E. Asia – China, C. and S. Japan. It grows on the thickets and roadsides at elevations of 200 – 1200 metres in S Anhui, Fujiang and Guangdong Provinces, China.
Boehmeria nipononivea is an erect, herbaceous perennial plant with stems that can become woody and persistent, at least at the base. It usually grows from 50 – 300cm tall, with stems up to 2cm in diameter, though occasional plants up to 7 metres tall are recorded.
Producing a very high quality fibre, the plant is much cultivated, especially in China, with a history of cultivation going back at least 3,000 years. It is also occasionally cultivated for its fibre or as an ornamental plant in southern Europe
It is impossible now to establish the natural distribution of this common, widely cultivated and naturalised species. The plant is classified as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
It is in flower from September to October. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). . The plant is not self-fertile.
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors at least in the milder parts of this country. This species is very closely related to Boehmeria nivea and is included as a subspecies of that species by some botanists. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Succeeds in a warm sandy soil that is very well-drained. Ramie has been cultivated for its fibre in many areas of China for a long time, with a history that can be traced back at least 3000 years ago. We are not sure if this species is dioecious or monoecious.
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
The plant is antiphlogistic, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic and vulnerary. It is used to prevent miscarriages and promote the drainage of pus. The plant is used as a medicine to relieve fevers and infections of the urethra. The leaves are astringent and resolvent. They are used in the treatment of fluxes and wounds.
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, leucorrhoea, impetigo etc.
The fresh root is pounded into a mush and used as a poultice
A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of the stem – of excellent quality, it is highly water-resistant and has a greater tensile strength than cotton. It is used for textiles, linen etc and is said to be moth-proof. It is best harvested as the female flowers open. 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
Agroforestry Uses: Planted to prevent erosion in gullies
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