Ramie (Boehmeria nivea)

Perennial
B. tenacissima. Gaud.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Ramie
Boehmeria nivea
Urticaceae

A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of the stem – of excellent quality, it is used for textiles, linen etc and is said to be moth-proof[1, 46, 57, 61, 74, 171]. Yields are from 375 to 900 kilos of fibre (per acre?)[123]. Two to four harvests per year are possible depending upon the climate, it is harvested as the stems turn brown[123]. Best harvested as the female flowers open according to another report[169]. The outer bark is removed and then the fibrous inner bark is taken off and boiled before being woven into thread[178]. The fibres are the longest known in the plant realm.[61, 171] The tensile strength is 7 times that of silk and 8 times that of cotton, this is improved on wetting the fibre[61]. The fibre is also used for making paper[189]. 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[189] before being made into paper.

  • Medicinal Use

    Antiphlogistic, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic and vulnerary. Used to prevent miscarriages and promote the drainage of pus[147, 178].

    The leaves are astringent and resolvent[218, 240]. They are used in the treatment of fluxes and wounds[218].

    The root is antiabortifacient, cooling, demulcent, diuretic, resolvent and uterosedative[218].

  • Edible Use

    Root – peeled and boiled. A pleasant, sweet taste[179]. 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[K]. Once in the mouth, it takes a lot of chewing before it is ready to be swallowed[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although members of the nettle family, plants in this genus do not have stinging hairs[235].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow spring in a warm greenhouse and only just cover the seed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well. Layering. Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 – 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Grow them on for their first winter in the cold frame and then plant them out in the summer.
Requires a rich warm sandy soil that is very well drained[1, 57, 123, 200]. Intolerant of wet soils[200]. This is a very greedy plant and can soon impoverish a soil. All plant remains, after the fibre has been removed, should be returned to the soil[123]. Does best in areas with high temperatures and high humidity plus a rainfall of 1100cm evenly distributed throughout the year[123]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7.3. This species is fairly hardy in Britain when dormant, though it may require some protection in winter (a good mulch to protect the roots should be sufficient). The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. The plant has been growing for many years in a sunny well-drained bed at Cambridge Botanical Gardens (which has low humidity and low rainfall), it has made a clump over 2 metres wide though it only reaches about 1.5 metres in height[K]. Boehmeria nivea, an extremely variable species, is widespread over large areas of subtropical and tropical Asia. Its complex species includes several infraspecific taxa, four varieties of which are found in China[266]. The sub-species B. nivea tenacissima. (Gaud.)Miquel., which produces the fibre ‘Rhea’ is a native of Malaysia and is not hardy in Britain[200]. Rami is much cultivated in China for its fibre[1], with a history of cultivation going back at least 3000 years[266]. It is also occasionally cultivated for its fibre or as an ornamental plant in Europe[50]. A very greedy plant, it requires a lot of feeding if it is to perform well[123].
E. Asia – China to the Himalayas of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.