Urena lobata: Caesar weed

Family: Malvaceae
Common name: Caesar weed, Congo jute

Once considered as valuable as cotton plants, Caesar weeds have now fallen from glory and is considered an invasive weed. They grow to a height of about 2 meters with erect branching stems that are covered with hairs. Caesar weed leaves are multi-lobed with hairs at the bottom, preventing cattle from grazing on it.

Flowers are about 1 cm in diameter and pink in color, growing at an angle to its stalks, making it difficult to photograph. Flowers resemble pink Hibiscus flowers with prominent style and stamens, since they both belong to the same family of Malvaceae.

Seeds are small, green and 5-lobed, turning dark brown on maturity. Seeds also have small hooks on them, helping them attach to clothing and animal fur for dispersal. This helps the plant to spread to new areas and rapidly invade landscapes.

Caesar weeds are also fast-growing, producing seeds before the plant can be destroyed. In spite of its invasive nature, the plants are considered useful since the leaves and roots have antibacterial properties. They are used as diuretics and in treatment of stomach aches, body ache, hypertension, sore throat, cough, and urinary infections. Leaves and flowers are applied to rashes, wounds and boils.

Caesar weed plants contain bast fibers which were at one point considered to be substitutes for linen and jute, but are not very popular these days. Fibers obtained by retting the plant stem is now used in making tea bags.

Propagation is through seeds.

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