Urena lobata (Caesar weed/ Congo jute)

Congo jute (Scientific name: Urena lobata), also known as Caesar weed or Wild Cotton, is a fast-growing, invasive plant species that is native to the tropical regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas. It is a mallow family (Malvaceae family) member and is known for its large, bright green leaves and small, pink/white flowers.

This plant is often used as a cover crop, as it can grow quickly and provide a dense cover of vegetation. It is also used as a food and medicine source in many parts of the world. The leaves of Urena lobata are rich in vitamins and minerals, making them a valuable source of nutrition for both humans and livestock. The plant seeds are also edible and are often used as a substitute for grain in areas where food is scarce.

photo of Urena lobata
Urena lobata

Urena lobata can be beneficial in certain situations but can also be a problem if not controlled. It is a great cover crop, a good source of food and medicine, easy to grow, and drought tolerant, but it is very important to know the potential risks and to take appropriate precautions for minimizing them. Its benefits as a food source and medicine make it a valuable crop for farmers and gardeners in tropical. In addition to its use as a cover crop, green manure and companion plant, Urena lobata has also been traditionally used as an insect repellent.


Despite its many benefits, Urena lobata is considered an invasive species in different parts of the world, as it can outcompete native plants and take over natural habitats. It is particularly problematic in tropical and subtropical regions, where it can grow quickly and spread easily. The plant can grow in a wide range of soil types and tolerate drought and flooding. This makes it difficult to control and can cause significant damage to natural habitats.


In cultivation, Urena lobata is easy to grow and its drought-tolerant. It is an excellent choice for a cover crop, and it’s often used in permaculture and agroforestry systems. The plant is also a good food source, as the leaves and seeds can be eaten. This makes it a valuable crop for farmers and gardeners in tropical and subtropical regions, where food security is a significant concern.

Utilization of Urena Lobata

If you want to use Urena lobata, it is essential to keep it contained in a designated area and prevent it from spreading to natural habitats.

Aesthetic value

In terms of its look and aesthetic, Urena lobata is known for its vibrant green leaves, which are large and lobed, resembling a maple leaf. The plant typically grows about 3-4 feet tall but, in some cases, can reach up to 6 feet. The small, pink or white flowers the plant produces are also quite beautiful, making it a great addition to any garden or landscape.

Flower of Urena lobata (Renjusplace, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Urena lobata as companion plant

Another benefit of Urena lobata is that it can be used as a companion plant. Companion planting means planting different species of plants together to improve the overall health and productivity of the garden or farm. Urena lobata can be used as a companion plant for various crops, including vegetables, grains, and legumes.

Urena Lobata for Soil Improvement

Urena lobata can also be used for soil improvement and erosion control. The plant’s deep roots can help to hold soil in place, preventing erosion and promoting the growth of other plants. The plant leaves can also be used as mulch, helping retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.

In addition to its use as a cover crop, Urena lobata can also be used as a green manure crop. This means it is grown specifically to be ploughed into the soil, adding organic matter and nutrients. This makes it an excellent crop for improving soil health and fertility, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions where soil fertility can be challenging.

Urena lobata is also known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants, and is often the limiting factor in crop growth. By fixing nitrogen in the soil, Urena lobata can help improve soil fertility and increase crop yields.

Use as an insect repellent

Urena lobata is a versatile plant that has been traditionally used as an insect repellent, the plant contains compounds that are known to repel insects and other pests, making it a great natural alternative to chemical insecticides.

The plant contains compounds that are known to repel insects and other pests, making it a great natural alternative to chemical insecticides. It’s been used to repel mosquitoes, flies, and other insects that can cause health problems and damage to crops.

To use Urena lobata as an insect repellent, the leaves of the plant can be crushed and applied directly to the skin, or they can be made into juice and used as a spray. It can also be planted around the perimeter of a garden or farm to keep pests away.

Natural dye from Urena lobata

The leaves and stem of Urena lobata plant contains a pigment which can be extracted and used as a natural dye. This pigment can be used to dye fabrics, yarns, and other materials in shades of green and yellow. The dye is made by boiling the leaves and stem of the plant, and it can be used to dye both plant and animal fibers.

The dye is considered eco-friendly and safe to use, as it is made from a natural source and does not contain any harmful chemicals. It is also affordable, as it is made from a commonly found invasive plant.

Medicinal use

In traditional medicine, Urena lobata is used to treat a wide range of ailments, including wounds, fever, and stomach problems.
The leaves of the plant contain compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties making it a potential alternative treatment for various illnesses.
In laboratory studies, extracts from the leaves have also been found to have anti-cancer activity.

However, please note that the plant can also be toxic to humans and animals.


The toxic compounds found in Urena lobata include alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins. These compounds can cause a wide range of symptoms in those who ingest them, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the plant can cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, hallucinations, and even seizures.

In addition to being toxic to humans, Urena lobata can also be harmful to livestock. The plant can cause a number of issues for grazing animals, such as stomach upset and even death in severe cases.

Please be aware of the potential toxicity of Urena lobata if you live in an area where the plant is known to grow. If you suspect that you or your animals may have ingested the plant, seek medical attention immediately. While dealing with an infestation of Urena lobata on your property, it’s best to seek professional help for safe and effective removal.

Control of Urena Lobata

Despite its many benefits, it is important to remember that Urena lobata is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world. It can quickly take over natural habitats and outcompete native plants.

To prevent this, it is crucial to keep an eye out for the plant and remove it as soon as it is spotted. This can be done manually, by pulling up the plants, cutting them down, or chemically using herbicides.

To control Urena lobata, it is also essential to prevent the spread of the plant by removing and disposing of any seeds or plant material that may be present.

In conclusion, Urena lobata is a versatile and beneficial plant that can be used for a variety of purposes, including as a cover crop, green manure crop, and companion plant. It is also a good source of food and medicine, and easy to grow. However, it’s important to remember that it can be invasive, so it’s essential to control it. With the proper management and care, Urena lobata can be a valuable asset to any farm or garden, providing many benefits and helping to improve soil health and fertility.

A B M Zahidul Hoque

I'm the owner of weedsingardens.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I have joined as a scientist at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh. I started Weeds in Gardens to make you familiar with different weeds and their positive and negative aspects.

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