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Urera baccifera - (L.) Gaudich. ex Wedd.

Common Name Nettle Tree, Chichaste, Ortiga
Family Urticaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards This is one of the best known plants of Guatemala and all Central America, one known and probably physically so, to all Central Americans, for it is one of the most severely stinging plants that exist in the Americas[331 ]. The large spine-like prickles are hollow and filled with liquid. When one brushes against a branch or a leaf, the prickles penetrate the flesh and cause the most excruciating pain, as sudden as an electric shock, that may last two or three days. The pain gradually disappears, to be followed by numbness in the affected part. It is needless to explain why the shrub makes an effective hedge plant!!![331 ].(Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested)
Habitats Common or abundant in wet or dry thickets, often in secondary growth, mostly in the lowlands at elevations up to 850 metres, but occurring also at higher elevations in Guatemala possibly because it was planted[331 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas; C. America - Panama t
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Urera baccifera Nettle Tree, Chichaste, Ortiga

Urera baccifera Nettle Tree, Chichaste, Ortiga


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Urera baccifera, or commonly known in various names such as Nettle Tree, Chichaste, Ortiga, Scratchbush, and Nigua, is a spiny flowering plant native to America. It grows about 5 m tall. The leaves are thin and toothed. The flowers, pink or purple, are borne in clusters. Male and female flowers are on different plants. The fruits are green or pinkish, spongy, and juicy. Seeds are dispersed by fruit-eating birds and capuchin monkeys. The plant is used to relieve from muscle pain, arthritis, pulled muscles, snakebite, gonorrhea, etc. No plant part is edible. It is also planted as hedge plant. Fibers obtained from branches are used to make ropes, twine, and paper.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Urera baccifera is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Urera armigera (C.Presl) Miq. Urera denticulata Miq. Urera horrida (Kunth) Miq. Urera rugosa Rusby U


Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiarthritic  Antibacterial  Diuretic  Skin  Stings

An infusion of the fresh leaves is diuretic[528 ]. The leaves are used in the treatment of muscle pain. A leaf is held by its petiole and the nettles are brushed against the skin[521 ]. This causes an excruciating pain, gradually replaced over the following days by a numbness!!![K ]. The Waorani also use this plant to relieve tainting and all pain, including that from aching muscles, arthritis, pulled muscles, snakebite, stingray and stings of the conga, a/teea and fire ants. The roots are said in the Colombian Amazon to have antihaemorrhagic properties, and an infusion of the leaves alleviates erysipelas[697 ]. A decoction of the roots is employed in treating gonorrhea[697 ]. A decoction of the root is diuretic[528 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fibre  Hedge  Paper  String

Agroforestry Uses: When one brushes against a branch or a leaf of this plant, the prickles penetrate the flesh and cause the most excruciating pain. It is needless to explain why the shrub makes such an effective hedge plant, and for this purpose it is widely planted in the Americas. Horses fear it, and few other large animals will attempt to penetrate such hedges, which are far from being things of beauty. Only in the early part of the rainy season, when the new foliage has developed, are the hedges at all presentable. During the height of the dry season they lose their leaves and are unsightly[331 ]. The plant has been shown to build up to high populations in a fire-disturbed forest in the Atlantic forest in southern Brazil through a high recruitment rate and low mortality. The seeds are disbursed by birds[692 ]. Other Uses Fibre from the branches has been used for making rope, twine and paper[331 , 692 ].

Special Uses


References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Widespread throughout the moister American tropics and into the subtropics, this species is generaly not found in areas with a mean annual rainfall of less than 1,600mm, preferring the range 2,000 - 4,000mm[692 ]. Prefers a sunny position[200 ], tolerating some shade but dying out in heavier shade[692 ]. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions from acid to calcareous; growing in well-drained to somewhat poorly drained soils of all textures[692 ]. The plant is considered a weed when growing in shaded coffee plantations; however it has never been found naturalized outside its native range[692 ]. When stems are cut during site management activities they quickly sprout and regain their former height. Whether sprouting from the rootstalk occurs after senescence and death of individual stems is not known[692 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - when sown fesh it can germinate in 26 days or more with around 49% sprouting[692 ]. Cuttings are easy - even thick branches take root quickly when set in the ground[331 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ortiga, Sinalwo, ishanka waska, itapalla grande, orteguilla, ortiga, ortiga brava, ortiga del monte, ortiguilla pino guazú, ortigón, tuntun nara.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Brazil, Central America*, Costa Rica, Cuba*, Dominican Republic, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Lesser Antilles*, Mexico*, North America, Puerto Rico, South America, Suriname, Venezuela, West Indies*,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

The plant is considered a weed when growing in shaded coffee plantations; however it has never been found naturalized outside its native range[692 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(L.) Gaudich. ex Wedd.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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