Stinging nettle Urtica dioica, photographed by Uwe H. Friese.

Belongs within: Rosales.
Contains: Lecantheae.

The Urticaceae contains the nettles and related species, the majority of which are found in tropical and subtropical regions. Members of the family are characterised by the production of cystoliths (calcium carbonate crystals) in the leaves. Within the family, the tribe Urticeae is distinguished by the possession of leaves with stinging hairs, and contains the nettles proper. Non-stinging members of the family include ramie, Boehmeria nivea, grown as a source of fibre.

See also: Nettle, where is thy sting?

Characters (from Boufford): Herbs or small shrubs (rarely lianas or trees), herbs annual or rhizomatous perennial, usually pubescent, sometimes with stinging hairs, deciduous. Leaves opposite or alternate and spirally arranged, simple; stipules present or absent; petioles present. Leaf blades paired, equal in size (except in Pilea, which may have unequally paired leaves), dotted with linear or rounded marks formed by cystoliths (variously shaped calcium carbonate crystals inside epidermal cells). Inflorescences axillary or terminal, of paniculately or racemosely arranged cymes, or spikelike. Flowers bisexual or unisexual (staminate or pistillate), staminate and pistillate flowers on same or different plants; perianth hypogynous. Staminate flowers usually pedicellate; tepals 4-5, white or green; stamens 4-5, equaling tepals in number; filaments inflexed in bud, reflexing suddenly as flowers open; anthers basifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits; pollen ejected explosively; pistillode 1. Pistillate flowers usually sessile; tepals 2-4, hypogynous, greenish or reddish, distinct or connate; staminodes present or absent; pistil1, 1-locular; placentation basal; ovule1; style present or stigma sessile; stigma linear (rarely capitate); bisexual flowers: tepals 4; stamens 4; pistil1. Fruits achenes, free or loosely or tightly surrounded by persistent, accrescent perianth.

    |--Forsskalea AGF98 [Forsskaoleae, Forskohleae HQC03]
    |    `--F. tenacissima AGF98
    |--Parietaria PL04 [Parietarieae HQC03]
    |    |--P. alsinifolia AGF98
    |    |--P. cardiostegia KM08
    |    |--P. cretica PT98
    |    |--P. debilis A27
    |    |--P. diffusa Mertens & Koch 1823 PL04
    |    `--P. lusitanica PT98
    `--Boehmerieae HQC03
         |--Boehmeria HQC03
         |    |  i. s.: B. glomerulifera BB07
         |    |         B. nipononivea NB03
         |    |         B. spicata NB03
         |    |--B. calophleba HQC03
         |    `--+--B. macrophylla HQC03
         |       `--+--B. biloba HQC03
         |          `--B. nivea HQC03
         `--+--Myriocarpa longipes HQC03
            `--+--Lecantheae HQC03
               `--Urticeae [Urereae] HQC03
                    |--Urera baccifera J87
                    `--Urtica HQC03
                         |--U. australis A27
                         |--U. dioica HQC03
                         |--U. ferox A27
                         |--U. hyperborea O88
                         |--U. incisa A27
                         |--U. magellanica D03
                         |--U. pilulifera PT98
                         `--U. urens C55

Urticaceae incertae sedis:
  Soleirolia PT01
  Poikilospermum suaveolens T00, K03
  Boehmeriopsis YY22
  Droguetia YY22
  Gesnouinia YY22
  Helxine YY22
  Hemistylis YY22
  Astrothalamus YY22
  Neraudia YY22
  Obetia YY22
  Sarcopilea YY22
  Achudemia YY22
  Chamabainia YY22
  Cypholophus YY22
  Debregeasia YY22
  Distemon YY22
  Fleurya YY22
  Girardinia YY22
  Gyrotaenia myriocarpa J87
  Hesperocnide YY22
  Laportea YY22
    |--L. bulbifera T03
    `--L. terminalis D07
  Leucosyke NB03
    |--L. capitella K03
    `--L. corymbulosa NB03
  Maoutia australis NB03
  Memorialis YY22
  Nanocnide YY22
  Pipturus argenteus NB03
  Pouzolzia SR07
    |--P. aspera SR07
    `--P. zeylanica BB07
  Sarchochlamys pulcherrima BB07
  Sceptrocnide YY22
  Touchardia YY22
  Villebrunea YY22
  Rousselia YY22
  Phenax YY22
  Oreocnide integrifolia NB03

*Type species of generic name indicated


[AGF98] Abd El-Ghani, M. M., & A. G. Fahmy. 1998. Composition of and changes in the spontaneous flora of Feiran Oasis, S Sinai, Egypt, in the last 60 years. Willdenowia 28: 123-134.

[A27] Andersen, J. C. 1927. Popular names of New Zealand plants. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 57: 905-977.

[BB07] Baishya, A. K. & P. J. Bora. 2007. Cross community ethno-medico botany of Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve, Assam. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 49 (1-4): 121-154.

[C55] Candolle, A. de. 1855. Géographie Botanique Raisonée: Ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle vol. 2. Librairie de Victor Masson: Paris.

[D07] Dash, S. S. 2007. Useful plants of Kabi Sacred Grove, Sikkim. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 49 (1-4): 79-88.

[D03] Dusén, P. 1903. The vegetation of western Patagonia. In Reports of the Princeton University Expeditions to Patagonia, 1896-1899, vol. 8 – Botany (W. B. Scott, ed.) pp. 1-34. The University: Princeton (New Jersey).

[HQC03] Hadiah, J. T., C. J. Quinn & B. J. Conn. 2003. Phylogeny of Elatostema (Urticaceae) using chloroplast DNA data. Telopea 10 (1): 235-246.

[J87] Judd, W. S. 1987. Floristic study of Morne La Visite and Pic Macaya National Parks, Haiti. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum – Biological Sciences 32 (1): 1-136.

[KM08] Keighery, G. J., & W. Muir. 2008. Vegetation and vascular flora of Faure Island, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 75: 11-19.

[K03] Kulip, J. 2003. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal and other useful plants of Muruts in Sabah, Malaysia. Telopea 10 (1): 81-98.

[NB03] Nieukerken, E. J. van, & C. van der Berg. 2003. A new Stigmella feeding on Urticaceae from Guam: First records of Nepticulidae (Lepidoptera) from Micronesia and Polynesia. Invertebrate Systematics 17: 27-37.

[O88] Ohba, H. 1988. The alpine flora of the Nepal Himalayas: An introductory note. In The Himalayan Plants vol. 1 (H. Ohba & S. B. Malla, eds) The University Museum, University of Tokyo, Bulletin 31: 19-46.

[PT98] Panitsa, M., & D. Tzanoudakis. 1998. Contribution to the study of the Greek flora: Flora and vegetation of the E Aegean islands Agathonisi and Pharmakonisi. Willdenowia 28: 95-116.

[PT01] Pemberton, L. M. S., S.-L. Tsai, P. H. Lovell & P. J. Harris. 2001. Epidermal patterning in seedling roots of eudicotyledons. Annals of Botany 87: 649-654.

[PL04] Pohl, G., & I. Lenski. 2004. Zur Verbreitung und Vergesellschaftung von Pennisetum orientale Rich. in Nordeuböa (Griechenland) (Poaceae, Paniceae). Senckenbergiana Biologica 83 (2): 209-223.

[SR07] Sankar, R. V., K. Ravikumar, N. M. Ganesh Babu & D. K. Ved. 2007. Botany of Anapady MPCA, Palghat district, Kerala with special emphasis on species of conservation concern. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 49 (1-4): 165-172.

[T00] Thorne, R. F. 2000. The classification and geography of the flowering plants: Dicotyledons of the class Angiospermae (subclasses Magnoliidae, Ranunculidae, Caryophyllidae, Dilleniidae, Rosidae, Asteridae, and Lamiidae). The Botanical Review 66: 441-647.

[T03] Tsurusaki, N. 2003. Phenology and biology of harvestmen in and near Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, with some taxonomical notes on Nelima suzukii n. sp. and allies (Arachnida: Opiliones). Acta Arachnologica 52: 5-24.

[YY22] Yampolsky, C., & H. Yampolsky. 1922. Distribution of sex forms in the phanerogamic flora. Bibliotheca Genetica 3: 1-62.

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