Hibiscus, or rosemallow, is a large genus of about 200–220 species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae, native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and woody shrubs and small trees.
The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to lanceolate, often with a toothed or lobed margin.
The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, ranging from white to pink, red, purple or yellow, and from 4-15 cm broad.
The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule splits open at maturity.
Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs.
One species of Hibiscus, known as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas and jams (especially in the Caribbean). In Latin America, the drink is known as jamaica (drink) and is quite popular. It is made from calyces of the roselle plant. In Egypt and Sudan, roselle petals make a tea named after the plant, karkade.
Hibiscus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Chionodes hibiscella, Hypercompe hambletoni, the Nutmeg moth, and the Turnip Moth.
The Hibiscus is used as an offering to Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship.
The bark of the hibiscus contains strong fibers. They can be obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea in order to let the organic material rot away. In Polynesia these fibers (fau, pūrau) are used for making grass skirts. They have also been known to be used to make wigs.
Hibiscus, espcially white hibiscus is considered to have medicinal properties in the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda. Roots make various decoctions believed to cure various ailments.
The natives of southern India uses the Red hibiscus- the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis for hair care purposes. The red flower and leaves, extracts of which can be applied on hair to tackle hair-fall and dandruff on the scalp. It is used to make hair protective oils. A simple application involves soaking the leaves and flowers in water and using a wet grinder to make a thick paste, and used as a natural shampoo.
Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico.