Hibiscus sabdariffa* Linn.
Annual or perennial, 1-2 m tall herbs. Stem usually profusely branched, glabrous or sparsely prickly, purplish. Leaves very variable, lower ones elliptic to suborbicular, upper ones slightly to deeply digitately 3-7 lobed; lobes serrate, lanceolate, elliptic or oblong, 2-8 cm long, 5-10 mm broad, nearly glabrous on both sides; glandular on the midrib beneath; petiole 2-5 cm long; stipules c. 1 cm long, linear, green-purplish. Flowers axillary, solitary; pedicel short, stout, less than 1 cm long, articulate in the middle or near the base, purple; epicalyx segments 8-12, 5-10 mm long, 2-3 mm broad accrescent, linear-lanceolate, purple, adnate to the base of calyx, narrowly channelled within at the apex. Calyx fleshy, purple, 1.5-2.5 cm long, accrescent in fruit, up to 3.5 cm, fused below the middle; lobes lanceolate, acuminate, usually with a gland on the central nerve near the base. Corolla yellowish to pinkish or purplish with a dark centre, 3-5 cm across; petals 3-4 cm long. Staminal column inserted. Capsule 2-2.5 cm long, 1-1.5 cm across, densely simple appressed hairy, ovoid, beaked. Seeds black, reniform, nearly glabrous 2-4 mm across.
Distribution: Native home uncertain but probably of African origin. Widely cultivated and sparingly naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions.
Economically it is quite an important plant but is not common in Pakistan though in the neighbouring country India, it is cultivated for its fibres as well as for vegetable. It is considered as a jute substitute in the world.
The leaves and shoots which are sour in taste are eaten raw or cooked. The fleshy fruiting calyces are also sour in taste and used like cran berries in jellies and confections, juice is also extracted for fresh or fermented drink. The seeds are also eaten. Various parts are said to be medicinally important for man and animals.