Native to eastern Asia, ramie is a flowering plant in the nettle family. It is a herbaceous perennial growing to 1.0–2.5 m tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, 7–15 cm long and 6–12 cm broad. They are white on the underside with dense, small hairs giving it a silvery appearance. The hairs do not sting. The true ramie or China grass is also called Chinese plant or white ramie.

A bast fiber crop, it is one of the oldest. Estimated to having been used for at least 6,000 years, it is mostly used for fabric production. The fiber used for textiles comes from the inner bark - phloem - of the vegetative stalks and not the woody stem or outer bark. Harvesting is done two to three times a year. Under good growing conditions, ramie can be harvested up to six times per year.Unlike other bast crops, ramie requires chemical processing to de-gum the fiber.