Boehmeria nivea
Common Name: ramie 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Urticaceae
Native Range: Eastern Asia
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Insignificant
Tolerate: Erosion


Winter hardy to USDA Zone 7b-11. Best in rich, fertile, warm, well-drained sandy soils in part shade. Intolerant of wet soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Boehmeria nivea, commonly known as China grass, white ramie, green ramie or rhea, is an upright deciduous, monoecious sub-shrub or shrub in the nettle family (no stinging hairs however) that typically grows to 8-10’ tall. It is best known for providing a textile fiber of excellent strength and quality from the inner bark of the stems. It was used to make mummy cloths in Egypt during the period of 5000-3000 BCE. It is native to thickets, forest margins and roadsides, often in rocky places, in southern China to the Himalayas of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal, but is now cultivated in a number of tropical to subtropical climates around the world, including parts of the southeastern U.S. and California. Despite its strength, however, it has had limited acceptance for textile use in the U.S.

Unbranched stems from underground rhizomes often become woody and persistent at the base. Long petioled, alternate, taper-pointed, broadly ovate leaves (to 4-7” long) have coarsely toothed margins. Leaf undersides are white tomentose beneath. Small apetalous monoecious greenish flowers in axillary clusters bloom July to August.

Ramie is chiefly used for fabric production. Outer bark is removed and then the fibrous inner bark is taken off and boiled before being spun into thread. Tensile strength is 7 time that of silk and 8 times that of cotton. It is often blended with cotton (55% ramie and 45% cotton).

This species is extremely variable but can always be told by (a) flowers appear in cymes, (b) leaves are alternate, and (c) achenes appear on a stipe or stalk.

Genus name honors George Rudolf Boehmer (1723-1803), professor of botany and anatomy at Wittenberg, Germany.

Specific epithet means snow-white in probable reference to the underside of the leaves.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Primarily used world-wide as a fiber crop to produce ramie, a strong, silky, flax-like fiber that is used in fabric. Uses include sewing threads, cloth, parachute fabrics, woven fire hoses, canvas, rope and wearing apparel. Plants are typically not planted in home gardens for ornamental purposes.