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Obetia radula (stinging-nettle tree)

The stinging-nettle tree looks a bit like a papaya tree - but it does what its name suggests!
Obetia radula in Ngurdoto Crater, Meru national park, Tanzania

Obetia radula in Ngurdoto Crater, Meru National Park, Tanzania

Species information

Scientific name: 

Obetia radula (Bak.) B.D.Jacks.

Common name: 

stinging-nettle tree (English); siyu (Lugishu); dorewa (Kamba); nakule (Rendille); ikope (Taita); elil (Tugen); amiandahy, amiana, ampy (Malagasy).

Conservation status: 

Not yet assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria, but thought likely to be of Least Concern.

Habitat: 

Rocky hillsides in bushland.

Key Uses: 

Rope-making, basketry, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

The trunk and leaves bear stinging hairs, which can cause pain and intense itching to humans and animals on contact.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Rosanae
Order: 
Rosales
Family: 
Urticaceae
Genus: Obetia

About this species

Tree-huggers beware – even the trunk of this tree has vicious stinging hairs, which cause both pain and intense itching. Think of European stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), which is from the same plant family (Urticaceae), and multiply! But from several steps away it is a pretty tree, looking a bit like a papaya tree (Carica papaya). It grows on rocky hillsides in East Africa and Madagascar and, amazingly, people have found a way of using the bark fibres for basketry and rope-making.

Synonym: 

Obetia pinnatifida

Genus: 
Obetia

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