Hibiscus, also known as rose mallow, is a species of plant in the mallow family. There are over 200 hibiscus species found in warm and tropical regions around the world. Hibiscus grows best in sunny, well-drained soil. This plant is best known for its lovely flowers. Hibiscus is typically grown for ornamental purposes, but it can also be used in the human diet, as a treatment for various disorders, and as a source of natural dyes. Wild hibiscus is an important source of food for the larvae of certain insects. Due to habitat loss and disease, several Hawaiian hibiscus species are endangered or extremely rare in the wild.
Hibiscus can grow as an evergreen bush or a small tree, depending on the species (that can reach up to 15 feet in height).
Hibiscus has toothed, green lanceolate leaves. On the branches, the leaves are alternately arranged.
Hibiscus produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers that lack scent. A flower has five or more petals that can be white, yellow, orange, purple, pink, red, or blue. It has both male and female reproductive organs (stamen and pistil).
Hibiscus flowers are primarily pollinated by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Hibiscus is known as the “shoe flower” in China because it is used to polish shoes.
Polynesians make grass skirts out of fibers derived from the bark of the hibiscus tree.
When women in Tahiti and Hawaii want to announce that they are single and ready for marriage, they place a hibiscus flower behind their right ear. Hibiscus is worn behind the left ear by married women.
Hibiscus flowers are a rich source of natural dyes that are used in the food industry. Women in China use hibiscus flower dyes to color their brows and hair.
Hibiscus flowers have a citrus flavor. They can be used to make soups, chutneys, salads, curries, jellies, and jams. Hibiscus leaves can be boiled and used in dishes that would normally use spinach.
Tea is the most popular hibiscus beverage (made of dry flowers). Aside from its pleasant taste, hibiscus tea is a good source of vitamin C.
According to some medical studies, hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Homemade shampoo can be made from crushed hibiscus leaves and flowers.
Hibiscus cannabinus is a hibiscus species used in the paper industry.
China and Thailand are the world’s largest hibiscus producers.
Hibiscus grows as an annual (plant that completes its life cycle in one year) or perennial (plant that lives for more than two years) plant, depending on the species.