Taxonomy

Pilea matama is a member of the nettle family, Urticaceae.

This family is most well known for the stinging species that are included in the following genera:

  • Dendrocnide
  • Girardinia
  • Urera
  • Urtica

Despite being famous for stinging, the majority of the 2,000 species in this family do not sting and consist of small shade-loving herbs found throughout the Tropics.

The genus Pilea is the largest in the Urticaceae family and consists of around 700 species - 60 of which are found in Central America.

Species within Pilea are distinguished by a range of characters including the:

  • arrangement and shape of the leaves
  • size and shape of modified leaves known as stipules
  • size and arrangement of the flower clusters
  • flowers and fruit

Probably a third of Pilea species have yet to be discovered and described, because few scientists study the Urticaceae family and Pilea is most diverse in wet montane forest - a relatively poorly-collected forest type worldwide.

Look-alikes

P. matama most closely resembles a widespread 'new world' species, P. imparifolia Wedd that is distributed throughout Central America and the northern parts of South America where it reaches the Amazon.

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Glossary
Epiphyte

A plant that grows on another plant, but not parasitically.

Staminodes

A stamen that does not produce pollen.