Urera rigida (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Urera rigida (Benth.) Keay

Protologue: Kew Bull. 1955: 141 (1955).
Family: Urticaceae


  • Urera elliotii Rendle (1916).

Origin and geographic distribution

Urera rigida is distributed in West Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cameroon.


The stem bark yields a fibre used for making fishing lines in Nigeria. In African traditional medicine a decoction of the plant is drunk as a diuretic. A decoction of the leaf is taken to treat neuralgia in Côte d’Ivoire, and for treatment of furuncles a leaf poultice is applied twice daily. Leaf sap is added to palm wine to be drunk for treatment of diarrhoea with blood. Leaf sap together with sap of Costus afer Ker Gawl. and water is taken against pain in the side, e.g. in case of pneumonia. Powdered leaves are added to rice as an aphrodisiac. In Côte d’Ivoire the plant is an ingredient of arrow poisons, whereas sap from the crushed inflorescence is taken as a poison antidote.


The fibre obtained from the bark is black and strong. The stinging hairs cause pustules and blisters on the skin.


Liana attached by adventitious roots; stem stout but rather soft, with colourless gum, stinging hairs present. Leaves alternate, simple, with stinging hairs; stipules present; petiole up to 13 cm long, with stinging hairs; blade broadly elliptical to suborbiculate, up to 24 cm × 16 cm, base rounded, apex acuminate, margin distinctly toothed, more or less rough above, lower surface short-hairy, 3-veined from the base. Inflorescence lax, much branched, with stinging hairs. Flowers unisexual, small, 4-merous; female flower with superior ovary. Fruit an achene, red, surrounded by the fleshy perianth.

In Benin Urera rigida flowers in September.

Urera comprises about 35 species and occurs in tropical Africa including Madagascar, tropical America and Hawaii. The taxonomy of the West African Urera species is incompletely known. The bark of Urera longifolia Wedd., a shrub up to 2 m tall endemic to Madagascar, also yields a strong fibre. It was formerly used for fishing lines, but has been replaced by nylon fibre.


Urera rigida occurs in dense semi-deciduous forest, periodically inundated locations and fallow land.

Genetic resources

In view of its fairly wide distribution, Urera rigida does not seem in danger of genetic erosion.


Urera rigida is a useful local source of fibre for cordage and is used for treatment of various ailments in African traditional medicine. Detailed information on the fibre properties and pharmacological properties is lacking, however, making it difficult to assess the prospects for this species. A taxonomic revision of West African Urera species is long overdue.

Major references

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
  • Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Urticaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 616–623.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.

Other references

  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Bouquet, A. & Debray, M., 1974. Plantes médicinales de la Côte d’Ivoire. Travaux et Documents No 32. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 231 pp.
  • Hawthorne, W. & Jongkind, C., 2006. Woody plants of western African forests: a guide to the forest trees, shrubs and lianes from Senegal to Ghana. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 1023 pp.
  • Kerharo, J. & Bouquet, A., 1950. Plantes médicinales et toxiques de la Côte d’Ivoire - Haute-Volta. Vigot Frères, Paris, France. 291 pp.
  • Leandri, J., 1965. Urticacées (Urticaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 56. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 107 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 1998. Afrikanische Arzneipflanzen und Jagdgifte. Chemie, Pharmakologie, Toxikologie. 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Stuttgart, Germany. 960 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2009. Urera rigida (Benth.) Keay. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 6 March 2020.