February 19, 2018

Urtigão, Shrubby Nettle (Urera cf. nitida)

To the genus Urera (Nettle family – Urticaceae) belong several dozen of lianas, shrubs or small trees. They are often prickly (but not all) and creates flesh fruits (achenes). They grows both in tropics of Old World (Africa) as well as in Americas. They are rarely cultivated as ornamental or for their sometimes edible fruits, and they are very hard to find. I grew only 2 species.

The species which I grew with success (and successful harvested fruits) is Urera cf. nitida (Urtigão, Cansanção, Urtiga Brava, Urtiga Roxa, Urtiga-de-leite).I am not sure of identification of it yet, because so far I was sure that it is other species – Urera baccifera (Chichicaste). The comment of Kimmo Vuokare showed me that it was probably mistake. I will be sure in summer because now my plants are cutted off (and leafless).
It is native to Brazil (an endemic which grows in semi-deciduous seasonal forests and dense ombrophilous forests). It is a half-woody shrub with succulent thick trunk and branches. It differs from U. baccifera by its smaller size, narrower glossy leaves and monoecious flowers. It grows only to about 1,5m (=5ft) tall (maximum to 3m = 10ft). It is armed (whole plant including stems, leaves and inflorescences, except only fruits) in small prickles which burn as common nettle (not more). It creates inflorescences on upper part of trunk and thick branches. Flowers are inconspicuous but later grow white or pink fruits which are edible (but not very sweet) and very ornamental.  The leaves are said to be also edible. It is so called “iron plant” – it survives drought, water-flooding, cutting, but needs only a little of sunlight (especially in winter when there is insufficient of sunlight) and frost free warm place. It can be easily propagated by sowing (surface) seeds but probably not by cuttings (I tried it unsuccessful).
The small seedling

Mature plant

Female and male flowers

It is caulifloric shrub - creates its inflorescences on thick branches

The plant in fruits
The fruits are edible
The second species which I tried to grow is Urera caracassana (Flameberry). It is shrub or small tree, native to South and Central America, with orange inedible, but very ornamental, fruits and leaves which have not prickles, but small burning hairs. I had no success with it. First it grew well (from small seeds sown surface) but I tried to winter it in cool cellar and this was a mistake – all plants died. 

Young seedling of U. caracassana

If you have seeds of any other species (especially which are known to create edible fruits) please write to me.


  1. Are you sure your U. baccifera isn't actually A. nitida? The description of U. nitida seems to fit these plants better - monoecial, glossy narrow leaves etc. I've seen these kind of plants labeled as U. baccifera in some botanical gardens - I guess you got yours from one as well? My thinking is that someone once misidentified the species and the material has spread around European botanical gardens with a incorrect name. Not saying it definitely is U. nitida, but I think it's worth looking into. Since you have adult plants, you might be able to look into this - provided you either find a non-spanish description or understand the language.
    Bought seeds from you through eBay, they are growing well! Just producing their first stinging trichomes.

    On another matter - have you ever heard of anyone (or a botanical garden for that matter) growing Urera laciniata? Pretty wicked looking plant!

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