Articles

Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich.

Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich.

Family

Urticaceae

Synonyms

Urtica nivea L., Boehmeria tenacissima Gaudich., Boehmeria utilis Blume.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia

Rami, rami-rami.

English

Ramie, rhea, China grass.

Indonesia

Rami (Indonesian), haramay (Sundanese).

Philippines Amirai (Tagalog), labnis (Ilokano), li­pang-a so (Tagalog).
Cambodia Thmey.
Laos Pan.
Thailand

Po-paan (centra!), po-bo (northern), taan khamoi (southeastern).

Vietnam c[aa]y gai.
French

Ramie.

Geographical Distributions

Boehmeria nivea probably originates in western and central China and has been cultivated in China since antiquity. Cultivation spread from China to other Asian countries. B. nivea plants and products were brought to Europe in the 18th Century and experi­mental plantings were established in many tropi­cal, subtropical and temperate countries. With the advent of synthetic fibres, however, the cultiva­tion of B. nivea plummeted, though it is still grown in many tropical and subtropical countries, in­cluding the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It has oc­casionally escaped from cultivation and naturalised.

Description

Boehmeria nivea is a monoecious, erect, fast-growing perennial herb or small shrub that can reach 1-2(-3) m tall, with long rhizome and tuberous storage roots. The stem is usually unbranched and hollow, 8-16 mm in di­ametre, initially green and hairy, brown­ish and woody. The inner bark layer yields the ramie fibre.

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple and with 3 prominent basal veins. The stipules are axillary, connate at base, lin­ear-lance-shaped and measure up to 1.5 cm long. The petiole is 6-12 cm long and pubescent. The blade is broadly ovate, triangular to suborbicular, measuring 7-20 cm x 4-18 cm, with wedge-shaped to subcordate base, with coarsely dentate to dentate­-serrate or crenate margin, abruptly long­acuminate at apex, green and scabrid above, hairless and green or white appressed-pubescent below.

The inflo­rescence is an axillary, racemose and measures 3-8 cm long. Each branch bears several crowded or well-separated clusters of unisexual flowers. The male clusters are small and usually with 3-10 flowers while the fe­male clusters are larger and usually with 10-30 flowers. The male flower is short pedicelled, with 3-5 ­lobed perianth, with stamens as many as lobes and incurved with persistent rudiment of pistillode. The female flower is sessile, with tubular perianth, 2-4-lobed, green­ish to pinkish, pistil with 1-celled ovary with one ovule, with exserted style, slender and hairy on one side and with slender stigma.

The fruit is a nearly globular to ovoid achene, about 1 mm in diametre, enclosed by the persistent perianth, hairy, crustaceous and brown­ yellow. The seed is nearly globular to ovoid, slightly less than 1 mm in diametre and dark brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

Boehmeria nivea is found in almost equatorial conditions in Indonesia and the Philippines to about 38°N in Japan and South Korea. It is grown at average temperatures ranging from 20°C dur­ing the cropping season in temperate regions to 28°C in the tropics. Frost may destroy the rhi­zomes; this can be prevented by mulching with leaves or compost. To grow properly, B. nivea re­quires a minimum of 100-140 mm rainfall per month. Short days promote flowering and ramie tolerates partial shade. For optimal fibre production, B. nivea requires rich, well-drained, sandy loams, with a pH of 5.5-6.5 (4.8-5.6 for peat soils). With heavy manuring, it can also be grown on less favourable soil types. B. nivea is extremely sensitive to waterlogging.

In Philippine experiments, it was most sensitive to flooding immediately after cutting and least sensi­tive during the middle vegetative stage (20 days after cutting). The duration of flooding significant­ly affected the height, stem weight and dry fibre yield, but had no significant effect on the fineness or diametre of the fibre.

Line Drawing / Photograph

Boehmeria_nivea

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.17: Fibre plants.