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Abelmoschus esculentus


Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench

Family Name: Malvaceae
Synonyms: Hibiscus esculentus
Common Name: Lady's Fingers, Okra, Gumbo, Bendi, 咖啡黄葵, 黄苏葵, 黄秋葵, 羊角豆

The unripe fruit of Lady’s Finger is a popular vegetable in many cuisines which has a mucilaginous texture.


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Annual
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby
Maximum Height 1 m to 1.8 m


Native Distribution Africa
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Erect, annual herb up to 1.8m tall (occasionally up to 4 m tall).
Foliage Leaves velvety, palmately lobed.
Stems Round, succulent stem.
Flowers Yellow and Hibiscus-like, pollinated by bees.
Fruit Dehiscent capsules. Young fruits green, covered by fine downy hairs, containing edible white seeds covered in mucilage; Mature fruits brown, fibrous tough, splitting open to disperse black seeds.
Cultivation Prefers well-drained, fertile soils. Can be planted into the ground, or in pots and root-control bags. The period from sowing to first harvest is 47-97 days. Propagate by seeds - let fruit pods dry on plant, before collecting seeds. Caution: Stems and leaves are covered with slighly prickly hairs that might cause irritation to individuals with sensitive skin. Handle with gloves, if necessary. 
Etymology Genus epithet 'Abelmoschus' means 'source of musk', describing how some members of the genus (eg. Abelmoschus moschatus) are cultivated for their musk-scented seeds, which are used in perfumes and medicines. Species epithet 'esculentus' means 'edible', a reference to the young fruits.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits, Edible Leaves, Edible Flowers, Edible Seeds
Food (Fruit & Vegetable): Young tender fruits eaten fresh or cooked as vegetable. Harvest pods within 1 week of flower pollination - look for pods with tips that snap and not bend upon pressure. Mucilage used to thicken stews, soups and Cajun gumbo. Leaves, flower buds and flowers also eaten as vegetable. Seeds are stimulant, roasted and grinded for use as non-caffeinated substitute for coffee. (Herb and Spice)
Medicinal: Mucilagenous roots used to treat to treat syphillis, cuts, wounds and boils.
Timber & Products: Stem fibres harvested for making jute, paper and textiles.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Commonly planted in home, school and economic gardens for the edible fruits. Giant fruit and red fruit cultivars (both with edible fruits) also available, usually cultivated for culinary or educational purposes.
Landscape Uses Small Gardens
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden
SGMP Treatment
Usage Hazard - Cons Spines/Thorns - Stem/Branch, Spines/Thorns - Leaf
Usage Hazard - Cons Remarks Little hairs/spines on leaves and stems may cause skin irritation in some individuals.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Easy to Grow
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Potential Problems Lady's Fingers is prone to being attacked by aphids, spider mites, whiteflies and root knot nematodes. To learn more about how to manage these pests and care for Lady's Fingers, please click on this NParks' link: NParks' Gardening Resources .
Propagation Method Seed
Seed / Spore Germination Duration 6 days to 7 days


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Velvety / Furry / Tomentose, Spiny / Bristly / Stinging
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green
Foliar Modification Prickle / Emergence (blade)
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Palmate)
Foliar Venation Palmate
Foliar Margin Palmately Lobed, Serrate / Toothed
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Cordate
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Yellow / Golden
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Radial
Individual Flower Shape Funnelform / Funnel-shaped
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flower Lifespan on Plant 1 Day
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule
Mature Seed Colour(s) Black
Mature Seed Texture(s) Smooth

Image Repository



Master ID 285
Species ID 1581
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 03 October 2022.