Please donate to support our ‘Plants to Save the Planet’ Project. The Project is directed at enabling designers of ‘carbon farms’ and ‘food forests’: agroecosystems of perennial plants, to choose the most appropriate plants for their requirements and site conditions. We are working on a subset of plants in the PFAF database identified as having the most potential for inclusion in such designs. We are adding search terms and icons to those plants pages, and providing a range of search options aligned to categories of plants and crop yields, with Help facilities including videos. More >>>

Follow Us:


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


Translate this page:


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.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (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


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.

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 ].


Our new book Edible Shrubs is now available.

Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

Read More

Edible Shrubs Book

Other Uses

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


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.


Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


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.

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.


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment


(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.

Readers comment

QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.

2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.

3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the website on their phone.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Urera baccifera  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some information cannot be used for commercial reasons or be modified (but some can). Please view the copyright link for more information.
Web Design & Management