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Family Urticaceae, composed of about 45 genera of herbaceous plants, shrubs, small trees, and a few vines, found mostly in tropical regions. Many species, especially the nettles (Urtica) and Australian nettle trees (Laportea), have on their stems and leaves stinging hairs that break the skin and release a fluid that irritates it for hours. Ornamental species include artillery plant (Pilea microphylla) and baby tears (Helxine soleiroli), both creeping plants. The trumpet tree (Cecropia peltata), a species of the New World tropics, has hollow stems that are inhabited by biting ants. Ramie, or China grass (Boehmeria nivea), produces a valuable fibre. Some nettles can be cooked and eaten.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on nettle family, visit Britannica.com.
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