Urtica ferox

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Urtica ferox
Ongaonga close-up.jpg
Urtica ferox leaves and spines
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Urticaceae
Genus: Urtica
Species: U. ferox
Binomial name
Urtica ferox

Urtica ferox, commonly known as ongaonga, is a nettle that is endemic to New Zealand. Sometimes known as the "tree nettle", ongaonga has woody stems and unusually large stinging spines, and can grow 5 metres tall. Even the lightest touch can result in a painful sting that lasts several days.

In Maori folklore, Kupe was said to have placed several obstacles to hinder pursuers whose wives he had stolen, one of which was the ongaonga.

Ongaonga is the main food plant for larvae of the New Zealand red admiral butterfly or kahukura, Vanessa gonerilla.

There has been one recorded human death from contact—a lightly clad hunter who died five hours after walking through a dense patch.[1] Acute polyneuropathy can occur due to U. ferox stings.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Poisonous native plants, Poisonous Plants and Fungi, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  2. ^ Kanzaki M, Tsuchihara T, McMorran D, Taylor P, Hammond-Tooke GD.,"A rat model of Urtica ferox neuropathy." Neurotoxicology. 2010 Dec;31(6):709-14

Further reading[edit]

  • Connor, H. E. (1977) [1952]. Poisonous Plants in New Zealand (DSIR Research Bulletin 99) (2nd edition ed.). Wellington: Government Printer. ISBN 0-477-01007. 
  • Crowe, Andrew (1999-09-07). Which Native Forest Plant?. New Zealand: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-028631-4. 
  • Hutching, Gerard (1998). Natural World of New Zealand. New Zealand: Viking (Penguin). ISBN 0-670-87782-4.