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Hibiscus cannabinus - L.

Common Name Kenaf, Brown Indianhemp
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 6-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range Original habitat is obscure, it probably arose in the tropics of Asia or America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Hibiscus cannabinus Kenaf, Brown Indianhemp

Hibiscus cannabinus Kenaf, Brown Indianhemp


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Hibiscus cannabinus is a ANNUAL/PERENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from August to September, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.



 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Oil;  Oil;  Root;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

Young leaves - cooked[74, 105, 177]. Used as a potherb or added to soups[183]. The leaves have an acid flavour like sorrel[2]. Seed - roasted or ground into a flour and made into a kind of cake[105, 177, 183]. Root - it is edible but very fibrousy[144]. Mucilaginous, without very much flavour[144]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[61, 183]. The yield varies from 2 - 10 tonnes per hectare[74] (or is it per acre?).

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.

Antibilious;  Aphrodisiac;  Poultice;  Purgative.

The juice of the flowers, mixed with sugar and black pepper, is used in the treatment of biliousness with acidity[240]. The seeds are aphrodisiac[240]. They are added to the diet in order to promote weight increase[240]. Externally, they are used as a poultice on pains and bruises[240]. The leaves are purgative[240]. An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of coughs[269]. In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are used in the treatment of dysentery and bilious, blood and throat disorders. The powdered leaves are applied to Guinea worms in Africa[269]. The peelings from the stems have been used in the treatment of anaemia, fatigue, lassitude, etc[269].

Other Uses

Dye;  Fibre;  Friction sticks;  Oil;  Oil;  Plant support.

Yields a fibre from the stem[1, 123], a very good jute substitute though it is a bit coarser[61]. The fibre strands, which are 1.5 - 3 metres long, are used for making rope, cordage, canvas, sacking, carpet backing, nets, table cloths etc[74, 123, 269]. For the best quality fibre, the stems should be harvested shortly after the flowers open[171, 269]. The best fibre is at the base of the stems, so hand pulling is often recommended over machine harvesting[269]. Yields of about 1.25 tonnes of fibre per hectare are average, though 2.7 tonnes has been achieved in Cuba[74, 269]. The pulp from the stems has been used in making paper[269]. The seed contains between 18 and 35% of an edible semi-drying oil[61, 74]. It is rather similar to groundnut oil, obtained from Arachis hypogaea[240]. The oil is also used for burning, as a lubricant and in making soap, linoleum, paints and varnishes[46, 61, 74, 269]. The seed yield varies from 2 to 10 tonnes per acre[74] (or is it per hectare?). The stems have been used as plant supports for growing runner beans etc[269]. The soot from the stems has been used as a black pigment in dyes[269]. The stem has been used as a base for drilling fire[269].

Cultivation details

Prefers a well-drained humus rich fertile soil in full sun[200]. Tolerates most soils but prefers a light sandy soil[123]. Plants are adapted to a wide range of soils and climatic conditions[171]. Kenaf is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 57 to 410cm, an annual temperature range of 11.1 to 27.5°C and a pH in the range of 4.3 to 8.2 (though it prefers neutral to slightly acid)[269]. The plant is frost sensitive and damaged by heavy rains with strong winds[269]. Kenaf is widely cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world, where it is grown mainly as a fibre crop but also for its seeds and leaves[269]. It is not very hardy outdoors in Britain, it really requires a frost free climate[123]. It can, however, probably be grown as an annual. A fast-growing plant, it can be harvested in 3 - 4 months from seed[50, 61]. The plant requires temperatures in the range of 15 - 25°c[169]. It succeeds as a crop as far north in N. America as Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska[160]. Plants are daylight sensitive, they remain vegetative and do not flower until the daylength is less than 12.5 hr/day. Two weeks of very cloudy days will induce flowering as daylength approaches 12.5 hr[269]. The plant has a deep-penetrating taproot with deep-seated laterals[269]. Plants, including any varieties, are partially self-fertile[269].


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Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. Germination is usually fairly rapid. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing them as annuals, plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and protect them with a frame or cloche until they are growing away well. If hoping to grow them as perennials, then it is better to grow them on in the greenhouse for their first year and to plant them out in early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Overwinter them in a warm greenhouse and plant out after the last expected frosts.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Kenaf, Brown Indian Hemp, Abirai, Ambada, Ambadi, Ambari, Baguitche-de-mato, Da ma jin, Dare, Deccan Hemp, Ebirai, Egwanyira, Etoke, Folere-burure, Gamboor, Gaynaru, Gogu, Gonkura, Kanjaru, Kanuriya, Karkandji al goz, Kasini, Kolokondwe, Kudrum, Lubeera, Masinzia, Meseka tenga, Mestapat, N'coco, Nalita, Narcino-branco, Nsorogwe, Nyaduwa, Nyarogena, Ombira, Patsan, Paw sai, Pitwa, Pulichhai, Pulimanji, Pundi, Queque, Sankola, Sheria, Sonkwe, Sosoori, Umhlakanye, Wuya,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Afghanistan, Africa, Angola, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central America, Chad, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, Northeastern India, Pakistan, Rwanda, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

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 : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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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

Janet May   Mon May 19 2008

My husband brought home a plant starter and I believe it is a hibiscus but have been unable to find a picture of the leaves. Can any one help me out. Is this a form of marijunia?

dennis lau   Fri Mar 20 2009

we want to plant Hibiscus cannabinus in north china this year, and want know some information for it. so we need help.

Sule Andrew   Fri Aug 28 2009

please can you help me with the chemistry of the different parts of Hibiscus cannabinus. I am interested in this plant,I hope to find any possible ways I can investigate this plant further. I will appreciate if you have any suggestion. Thanks.

david (volunteer)   Sat Aug 29 2009

From googling "hibiscus cannabinus" "chemistry" it seems the chemistry of this plant has been studied quite a bit, www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/.../hibiscus_cannabinus.html - perhaps the most comprehensive single site.

   Feb 28 2012 12:00AM

I have been involved with growing kenaf since 1995. I collaborate with many people in many countries sharing knowhow and seeds of kenaf production and uses. My website includes many linked pages full of information on growing, using, harvesting and develop kenaf based businesses. I am a grower of kenaf and would like to invite those interested in having people join with me in growing kenaf in Belize. I will be joining with Bill Loftus to put on a 12 day workshop on growing, harvesting, processing and using kenaf in Williston, Florida in September 2012. I will be joint venturing with Ecologic Technology Institute to put on a kenaf workshop in Atlanta, Georgia in August 2012. If you want to know more about kenaf join the kenaf community on facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/kenafcommunity. You may also visit my website www.solarentrep.com/kenaf_home.htm

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