Tragia involucrata: Indian stinging nettle

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Common name: Indian stinging nettle, Stinging nettle, Choriyanam, Pit Parni

Indian stinging nettle is a very commonly occurring weed that’s considered a nuisance in most cities in Kerala. Most people stay away from this plant since the stinging hairs can cause itching inflammation and edema.

These plants are slender shrubs that grow to a height of about 1 m with shiny, green, serrated leaves. Leaves are 6-10 cms long, and 3-5 cms wide, covered on both surfaces with short, shiny hairs. Veins are depressed, with small bumps all over the surface.

Stinging nettle plants produce small bunches of flowers that have male flowers on top and female flowers below. Male flowers are about 1.5 mm long, and female flowers about 3 mm long.

After pollination, the female flowers produce small fruits capsules that contain globose seeds. Indian stinging nettle plants are seen in India, Sri Lanka, China, Burma and other Asian countries with tropical weather.

The Tragia genus has over 150 species of which the most commonly seen plants are Tragia involucrata, Tragia spathulata, Tragia cannabina, Tragia benthamii, and Tragia plukenetii. Tragia involucrata plants grow well in warm weather, especially during rainy season.

They can grow in a variety of growing conditions like harsh sunlight, drought, and poor soil conditions. These sturdy little plants can even grow in crevices of walls and sidewalks.

Stinging nettle plants have extensive medicinal uses in traditional herbal medicine, in the treatment of wounds, eczema, bronchitis, pain, skin diseases, cough, asthma, cardiac ailments, kidney diseases, fever, wounds, hypertension, and urinary disorders.

The plants are not easy to handle with bare hands, and must be handled with care due to the stinging hairs. So most plants are just chopped off or uprooted using gardening tools.

Propagation is through seeds.