Hibiscus (// or //) is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The genus is quite large, comprising several hundred species that are native to warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. Member species are renowned for their large, showy flowers and are commonly known simply as hibiscus, or less widely known as rose mallow. The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek word ἱβίσκος (hibískos), which was the name Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40–90) gave to Althaea officinalis.
The leaves are alternate, ovate to lanceolate, often with a toothed or lobed margin. The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, color from white to pink, red, orange, peach, yellow or purple, and from 4–18 cm broad. Flower color in certain species, such as H. mutabilis and H. tiliaceus, changes with age. The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity. It is of red and white colours. It is an example of complete flowers.
Symbolism and culture
The hibiscus is the national flower of Haiti and is used in their national tourism slogan of Haïti: Experience It! The hibiscus species also represents several other nations. The Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea, and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national flower of Malaysia. The red hibiscus is the flower of the Hindu goddess Kali, and appears frequently in depictions of her in the art of Bengal, India, often with the goddess and the flower merging in form. The hibiscus is used as an offering to goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship.
In the Philippines, the gumamela (local name for hibiscus) is used by children as part of a bubble-making pastime. The flowers and leaves are crushed until the sticky juices come out. Hollow papaya stalks are then dipped into this and used as straws for blowing bubbles. Together with soap, hibiscus juices produce more bubbles.
The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Tahitian and Hawaiian girls. If the flower is worn behind the left ear, the woman is married or in a relationship. If the flower is worn on the right, she is single or openly available for a relationship. The hibiscus is Hawaii's state flower.
The bark of the hibiscus contains strong bast fibres that can be obtained by letting the stripped bark set in the sea to let the organic material rot away.
Hibiscus is a very hardy, versatile plant and in tropical conditions it can enhance the beauty of any garden. Being versatile it adapts itself easily to balcony gardens in crammed urban spaces and can be easily grown in pots as a creeper or even in hanging pots. It is a perennial and flowers through the year. As it comes in a variety of colors, it's a plant which can add vibrancy to any garden.
The only infestation that gardeners need to be vigilant about is mealybug. Mealybug infestations are easy to spot as its clearly visible as a distinct white cottony infestation on buds, leaves or even stems. To protect the plant you need to trim away the infected part, spray with water and then spray with a good insecticide recommended by a plant nursery.
The tea made of hibiscus flowers is known by many names in many countries around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is well known for its color, tanginess and flavor.
It is known as bissap in West Africa, "Gul e Khatmi" in Urdu & Persian, agua de jamaica in Mexico and Central America (the flower being flor de jamaica) and Orhul in India. Some refer to it as roselle, a common name for the hibiscus flower. In Jamaica, Trinidad and many other islands in the Caribbean, the drink is known as sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa; not to be confused with Rumex acetosa, a species sharing the common name sorrel). In Ghana, the drink is known as soobolo in one of the local languages.
In Cambodia, a cold beverage can be prepared by first steeping the petals in hot water until the colors are leached from the petals, then adding lime juice (which turns the beverage from dark brown/red to a bright red), sweeteners (sugar/honey) and finally cold water/ice cubes.
In Egypt, Sudan and the Arab world, hibiscus tea is known as karkadé (كركديه), and is served as both a hot and a cold drink.
Dried hibiscus is edible, and it is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish, usually for desserts.
The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable. The species Hibiscus suratensis Linn synonymous to Hibiscus aculeatus G. Don is noted in Visayas in the Philippines as being a souring ingredient for almost all local vegetables and menus. Known as labog in the Visayan area, (or labuag/sapinit in Tagalog), the species is a very good ingredient in cooking native chicken soup.
Precautions and contraindications
Pregnancy and lactation
While the mechanism is not well understood, previous animal studies have demonstrated both an inhibitory effect of H. sabdariffa on muscle tone and the anti-fertility effects of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, respectively. The extract of H. sabdariffa has been shown to stimulate contraction of the rat bladder and uterus; the H.rosa-sinensis extract has exhibited contraceptive effects in the form of estrogen activity in rats. These findings have not been observed in humans. The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is also thought to have emmenagogue effects which can stimulate menstruation and, in some women, cause an abortion. Due to the documented adverse effects in animal studies and the reported pharmacological properties, the H. sabdariffa and H.rosa-sinensis are not recommended for use during pregnancy. Additionally, they are not recommended while breastfeeding due to the lack of reliable information on its safety and use.
It is postulated that H. sabdariffa interacts with diclofenac, chloroquine and acetaminophen by altering the pharmacokinetics. In healthy human volunteers, the H. sabdariffa extract was found to reduce the excretion of diclofenac upon co-administration. Additionally, co-administration of Karkade (H. sabdariffa), a common Sudanese beverage, was found to reduce chloroquine bioavailability. However, no statistically significant changes were observed in the pharmacokinetics of acetaminophen when administered with the Zobo (H.sabdariffa) drink. Further studies are needed to demonstrate clinical significance.
In temperate zones, probably the most commonly grown ornamental species is Hibiscus syriacus, the common garden hibiscus, also known in some areas as the "rose of Althea" or "rose of Sharon" (but not to be confused with the unrelated Hypericum calycinum, also called "rose of Sharon"). In tropical and subtropical areas, the Chinese hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis), with its many showy hybrids, is the most popular hibiscus.
Several hundred species are known, including:
Formerly placed here
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