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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

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Robust annual, erect, herb, up to 4 m tall, often with much anthocyanin in the green parts. Stem often woody at the base. Leaves simple, alternate, polymorphic, 8–15 cm x 6–14 cm, with a nectary on the midrib beneath; the lower leaves often undivided, ovate; the upper leaves palmately 3- to 5-parted with lanceolate segments; petiole 4–12 cm long. Flowers solitary, axillary and showy, yellow or pink with a dark purple basal spot; epicalyx segments 7–10, without an appendage, reddish, linear and usually fleshy; calyx 5-lobed, 1–2 cm long, with a nectary on the costae outside, usually becoming large and fleshy after anthesis, accrescent to 5 cm and closely enveloping the capsule, dark purple or red; corolla with five petals, not widely opened, pale yellow or pale pink with dark purple basal spot; staminal column erect, 1.5–2 cm long, bearing anthers almost from the base; style arms 5, short, each ending in a discoid stigma. Fruit an ovoid capsule, 2–2.5 cm x 1.5–2.5 cm, obtuse, pilose, many-seeded, dehiscent by five valves. Seed reniform, 4–7 mm long, blackish brown, pilose.

Other botanical information: The distinction between vegetable and fibre types is best expressed in a cultivar group classification:

  • cv. group Sabdariffa (synonym: var. sabdariffa) consists of bushy, much-branched forms, up to 2 m tall, with a very fleshy calyx, lacking hairs and prickles, normally cultivated as a leafy vegetable or for the edible calyx;
  • cv. group Altissima (synonym: var. altissima Wester) consists of tall, unbranched forms, up to 4 m tall, usually with inedible calyces, frequently beset with hairs and prickles, grown for their bast fibres. H. sabdariffa (2n = 72) is most probably an allotetraploid derived from H. asper Hook.f. (2n = 36) and a second still unknown species with 2n = 36.
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