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Hibiscus sabdariffa

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
Full Sun: 6-8h Moderate Water Fruit & Vegetable Ornamental Flowers Woody


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic


Native Distribution Tropical Africa
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Exotic (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Woody, annual or 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 White to yellowish-white flowers (8 cm wide) have a red spot in the center, bright red, fleshy calyx enclosing the base of the flower. 
Fruits 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. 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 Food (Fruit & 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.)
Medicinal ( A poultice prepared from the leaves can be applied to ulcers and abcesses to promote healing.)
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
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Pink

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Red

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: 20 April 2020.