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Hibiscus sabdariffa


Hibiscus sabdariffa L.

Family Name: Malvaceae
Synonyms: Hibiscus gossypiifolius, Abelmoschus cruentus, Hibiscus digitatus, Sabdariffa rubra, Hibiscus sanguineus
Common Name: Roselle, Jamaica Sorrel, Red Sorrel, Sorrel, Indian Sorrel, Asam Susar, 玫瑰茄, 山茄子

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a popular relative of the Lady's Finger, where its fleshy red calyces are commonly used in making jams and beverages with blackcurrant-like taste. Easily grown from stem cuttings or seeds, this sun-loving shrub can be planted on the ground or in containers where it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. This plant has ornamental pinkish flowers and trilobed leaves making it an excellent hedge or border plant.


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 Shrub
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 1 m to 2 m


Native Distribution Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Zaire
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Woody, perennial shrub with an erect form, able to grow up to 1 - 2 m tall.
Foliage Dark green leaves are either lanceolate (3 - 7 cm wide, 11 - 16 cm long) or tri-lobed (19 - 20 cm wide, 15 - 16 cm long) with serrate leaf margins. Tri-lobed leaves are deeply lobed. The same individual may produce both leaf types.
Stems The stem is woody and red to purple.
Flowers Pinkish flowers (8 cm wide) have a red spot in the center, bright red, fleshy calyx enclosing the base of the flower. 
Fruit Dehiscent, dry fruit is classified as a capsule. It releases many brown, bean-shaped and wrinkled seeds (0.6 cm wide).
Cultivation Plant this species in well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH = 5 - 6.5) that is rich in organic matter and moisture retentive. Flowering occurs 45 - 60 days from seed planting. Calyces are ready for harvest about 35 days after flower opening. Prune the shrub to promote branching. Hard pruning will encourage the formation of larger flowers. This species is susceptible to root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). Mulching the plant and re-planting from seed in new areas will help to control the nematode population. Other problems include bacterial diseases caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. malvacearum and Pseudomonas cihorii. These diseases can be controlled by keeping the foliage dry and spraying with chemicals such as mancozeb or copper sulfate pentahydrate. Plants are also prone to attack by whiteflies and two-spotted mites which can be sprayed with insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils. Stem and root rot can be a serious problem.
Etymology Genus Hibiscus is from the Greek word hibiskos which Roman poet Virgil used to relate to the marsh mallow plant. Species epithet sabdariffa is the name of a genus that this species was once placed in. The common name "Roselle" is likely a corrupted version of the French name for this plant, "Oseille de Guinée," which means Guinea Sorrel.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Flowers, Edible Leaves
Food (Fruit or Vegetable): The young shoots have a sour taste. They can be consumed raw or cooked and may be added to salads, soups and meat or vegetable dishes. Fresh or dried calyces can be immersed in hot water and then sweetened with sugar to prepare a beverage that is rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and anthocyanins. Its taste is similar to Ribena (a blackcurrant-flavored drink). In the Caribbeans, people drink the juice extracted from the calyces either fresh or fermented. The versatile calyx is also used as a natural food coloring, as well as for making jams which taste like cranberry sauce.

Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Properties

In both pre-clinical and clinical trials, Roselle showed antioxidant (Usoh et al., 2012; Frank et al., 2012) and cholesterol-lowering properties (Usoh et al., 2012; Hajifaraji et al., 2018) in animals and people, respectively.

In pre-clinical trials, Roselle showed pain-relieving (Ali et al., 2013), anti-cancer (Huang et al., 2018), anti-diabetic (Ndarubu et al., 2019), anti-inflammation (Ali et al., 2013), anti-microbial (Portillo-Torres et al., 2022) properties in animals.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Research supports the traditional use of Roselle to treat ulcers. 

It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are not currently supported or verified by scientific research. 

Cut - Dried Flower: This species produces a large number of attractive, red flower buds. These buds, as well as flowers that have bloomed, could be used as part of a floral arrangement.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping This species makes as excellent hedge or border plant. The reddish stems and flower buds add colour to the landscape and also provide contrast against the dark green colour of the leaves. The tri-lobed leaves also help to give this shrub a unique appearance. Plant several individuals together to maximize the impact of its colour.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Abiotic (Self-Pollinated)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast to Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Transplanting Tolerance Moderate
Maintenance Requirements Low
Diseases Root rot, stem rot
Pest(s) Nematodes, Sucking Insects
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting
Planting Distance 60 cm


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Raised / Sunken Veins
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green
Young Flush Texture(s) Raised / Sunken Veins
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Palmate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Serrate / Toothed
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Acute
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Branch Angle (wrt vertical) Woody
Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground (Tap Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Pink
Flower Texture(s) Smooth
Flower Grouping Solitary
Flower Location Axillary
Flower Symmetry Radial
Individual Flower Shape Bowl-shaped
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flowering Opening Time Daytime
Flowering Habit Polycarpic
Flower Size 8 cm x 8 cm

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Red
Mature Fruit Texture(s) Smooth
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type
Mature Seed Colour(s) Brown, Black
Mature Seed Texture(s) Wrinkled
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Several (11-20)



Ali, S.A.E., Mohamed, A.H. & Mohammed, G.E.E. (2014). Fatty acid composition, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities of Hibiscus sabdariffa Linn. seeds. Journal of Advanced Veterinary and Animal Research 1(2): 50–57.

Frank, T., Netzel, G., Kammerer, D.R., Carle, R., Kler, A., Kriesl, E., Bitsch, I., Bitsch, R. & Netzel, M. (2012). Consumption of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. aqueous extract and its impact on systemic antioxidant potential in helathy subjects. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 92(10): 2207–2218.

Hajifaraji, M., Matlabi, M., Ahmadzadeh-Sani, F., Mehrabi, Y., Rezaee, M.S., Hajimehdipour, H., Hasanzadeh, A. & Roghani, K. (2018). Effects of aqueous extracts of dried calyx of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on polygenic dyslipidemia: A randomized clinical trial. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine 8(1): 24–32.
Huang, C.C., Hung, C.H., Chen, C.C., Kao, S.H. & Wang, C.J. (2018). Hibiscus sabdariffa polyphenol-enriched extract inhibits colon carcinoma metastasis associating with FAK and CD44/c-MET signaling. Journal of Functional Foods 48: 542–550.

Ndarubu, T.A., Chiamaka, O.S., Alfa, S., Aishatu, M., Chinedu, O.E., Wenawo, D.L, Adenike, A.R., Bashir, L. & Eustace, B.B. (2019). Phytochemicals, hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of methanol leaf extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa in alloxan induced diabetic rats. GSC Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences 8(3): 70–78.

Portillo-Torres, L.A., Bernardino-Nicanor, A., Mercado-Monroy, J., Gómez-Aldapa, C.A., González-Cruz, L., Rangel-Vargas, E. & Castro-Rosas, J. (2022). Antimicrobial effects of aqueous extract from calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa in CD-1 mice infected with multidrug-resistant enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimuriumJournal of Medicinal Food 25(9): 902–909.

Usoh, I.F., Ekaidem, I.S., Etim, O.E., Akpan, H.D., Akpan, E.J. & Fakoya, A. (2012). Antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of dried flower extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. on rats treated with carbon tetrachloride. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 2(8): 186–189.

Image Repository



Master ID 801
Species ID 2096
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: 08 September 2023.