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Abelmoschus manihot - (L.)Medik.

Common Name Aibika
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Wasteland and humid rocky hillsides[260]. In Nepal it grows at elevations of 700 - 1700 metres in rocky places with shrubs[272]. Grasslands, near streams and margins of farm land[266].
Range E. Asia - South-eastern Asia to Northern Australia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Abelmoschus manihot Aibika

Abelmoschus manihot Aibika


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Abelmoschus manihot is a PERENNIAL growing to 3 m (9ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Hibiscus manihot.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Young leaves - raw or cooked[183 , 200 ]. Sweet and mucilaginous[183 , 300 ]. The leaves are high in vitamins A and C, and iron, and have 2% protein by dry weight. Young leaves can be used as a lettuce substitute[298 ] or a spinach substitute. Young shoots are harvested when about 15cm long[300 ]. Flower buds - raw or cooked[183 ]. There is a wide range of other leaf shapes.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Emmenagogue  Odontalgic  Vulnerary

The bark is said to be emmenagogue[240]. A paste of the bark is used to treat wounds and cuts, with new paste being applied every 2 - 3 days for about 3 weeks[272]. In Nepal the root juice is warmed and applied to sprains[272]. The juice of the flowers is used to treat chronic bronchitis and toothache[272].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

The root of this plant is used by the Japanese as a size for their handmade papers, which are prepared from the inner bark of Edgeworthia gardneri and several varieties of the paper mulberry (Broussonetya papyrifera). The root is macerated in water and added to the paper pulp. The mucilage is obtained from the roots of this plant as follows:- Wash off the dirt, soak in fresh water for some hours, and crush them to pieces. The substance thus prepared should then be put in a linen bag and soaked again in water. When the material gets thoroughly soft, the juice comes out of the bag by manipulating in the vat in which pulp has been previously mixed to receive the paste. The bag should be squeezed now and then, as the mucilage does not come out by itself. The paper maker can judge whether sufficient mucilage is in the water or not by its glutinous consistency. This is the best mucilaginous plant extensively used in Japan[511 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A short-lived perennial shrub. Plants grow well in lowland tropical areas, with yields beginning to drop when they are grown at elevations above 500 metres. They may develop an annual habit of growth at higher elevations and in cooler climates[300 ]. They are generally tender in the temperate zone but can be grown outdoors as an annual, flowering well in their first year and setting seed[200 , K ]. They will occasionally overwinter in a cold greenhouse in the temperate zone[K ]. Plants have a high moisture requirement and grow best in areas with an evenly distributed annual precipitation of 1,000mm or more[300 ]. They prefer a relatively high humidity and a stable temperature above 25°c, though they can tolerate occasional short-lived lows down to about -5°c so long as they are in a very well-drained soil[260 , 300 ]. Easily grown in any well-drained soil in a sunny position[200 ]. Plants are most productive when grown in well-prepared fertile soils that are rich in organic matter[300 ]. When well looked after, the plant can be highly productive - yields of 40 - 60 tonnes per hectare have been achieved in the tropics[298 , 300 ]. A very variable plant[300 ]. Plants do not flower well when day length is less than 12 hours[300 ]. Plants are somewhat susceptible to root nematodes[298 ]. It grows well in an ornamental vegetable garden[200 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse. The seed should germinate with two weeks, when it is large enough to handle prick it out into individual pots and plant out after the last expected frosts. The seed can also be sown in situ in late April in areas with warm summers.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Aibika, hibiscus spinach, ibika, bele, vauvau (Fiji), pele (Polynesia), ailan kapis (Vanuatu), tororo aoi (Japan), sunset muskmallow, sunset hibiscus, hibiscus manihot, lettuce tree, Queensland greens

ASIA-TEMPERATE: China: Fujian Sheng, Henan Sheng, Hebei Sheng, Hunan Sheng, Hubei Sheng, Guangdong Sheng, Guizhou Sheng, Shandong Sheng, Shaanxi Sheng, Sichuan Sheng, Yunnan Sheng, Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu, Taiwan. ASIA-TROPICAL: Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Thailand (north), Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Abelmoschus esculentusOkraAnnual1.0 5-11  LMHNM432
Abelmoschus moschatusMusk Mallow,Musk OkraPerennial2.0 8-11 FLMHNM233

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Doreen Nault   Thu Aug 17 2006

Hibiscus manihot is known as Tororoaoi in Japan and is a pivotal substance in the making of Japanese paper (washi). The roots are harvested and pounded to release a mucilaginous substance that is mixed into the vat of water with pounded fibers (of various plants, but a species of long fibered mulberry, "kozo", is most common). The addition of the tororoaoi substance changes the viscosity of the water and is what facilitates the separation of each fiber, making it possible in the unique Japanese papermaking process, for the fibers to overlap and intertwine, resulting in the phenomenally strong and beautiful Japanese paper known as washi. PS Your database is incredible. I refer to it often. THANK YOU!!

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Samoa   Sun Dec 31 2006

"Lau pele" is the Samoan name for Abelmoschus and I ate a ton of it when I lived there. Although some claim it should be cooked, I found it wonderful as a salad leaf. To grow more leaves, we simply cut off branches and stuck them back in the soil. We always ate it before they could grow flowers. I was researching its English and scientific names so that I can get some and grow it in Florida. Thank you for your wonderful database.

Dan Culbertson   Sat Jul 21 2007

I have what was called Abelmoschus manihot or "edible leaved hibiscus" when it was given to me. Near as I can tell it might be A. manihot except some descriptions of it say the leaf is hairy and mine is definitely smooth, almost succulent. I also have never seen it flower and produce pods - I reproduce it by sticking branches in the ground. Here in north Florida it comes back ever spring from the roots. The leaves are very good in salads. I wonder if this is a subspecies since I have never seen it bloom?

Rebecca Vave   Fri Feb 1 2008

It was a favorite "cabbage" in the Solomon Islands; just wish we could get it here in Minnesota. Often called "slippery cabbage", in Fiji it is called "bele". In the Sol. Is. some names are "reko" [Sa'a], "neka" [Roviana] and, one variety with a large wrinkled leaf (a favorite), is called "frog cabbage" by expats.

   Fri Mar 7 2008

I've heard this plant is used in making Gampi paper, in Japan!

Adrian Fox   Sun Jul 13 2008

I've been growing it for several years as an annual in central France. It looks so like okra I've wondered if you can eat the immature pods like okra? Has anyone done this or are they too stringy? Or toxic? I note you can eat the immature flower buds. Would welcome anyone's thoughts on this as okra for some reason seems to be far more difficult to grow!

Raffi   Fri Oct 23 2009

Gardenology.org - Garden wiki & Plant encyclopedia

Very detailed scientific research document. 99 pages. Downloadable. Has side by side comparison of A. manihot and Spinach(Spinacia oleracea)Wow.   Nov 22 2013 12:00AM

Hello, I too have been to the Solomon Islands and have been researching this plant with my limited resources. I did find this link and just about everything you need to know about this plant if you plan to grow it on a pacific island. In the United States it is known as Sunset Hibiscus, seeds and plants are available. This pdf also includes descriptions of the hairs on the plants by hair type and location and may help Dan Culbertson with identification. I am glad I did my research on their native plants before trying to "westernize" them into growing our less nutritious foods.
Bioversity International

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