Abelmoschus manihot



Abelmoschus manihot

(L.) Medik. 1787

pronounced: a-bell-MOSS-kuss MAN-ee-hot

(Malvaceae — the hibiscus family)

subfamily: Malvoideae

synonym — Hibiscus manihot

L. 1753

pronounced: hy-BISS-kuss MAN-ee-hot

common name: aibika

Abelmoschus is neo-Latin, i.e. Latin words created for scientific use after about 1500 AD, and comes from the Arabic abu-l-misk, “father of musk”, i.e. possessing musk; manihot is from mandioca, the name of the manioc in the Tupi language of Brazil. I think the plant pictured is a cultivar of the subspecies manihot, but I am not certain – there is much confusion as to subspecies and varieties of this extremely variable plant.

Some subspecies are native to India, southern China, tropical Asia and some of the Pacific Islands, but have become naturalized in Australia. This plant is regarded as a possible early introduction into Australia, where it usually grows in the northern parts of the country, in seasonally wet areas or near creeks, in open forest and woodland, in a wide range of soils from sands to heavy clays. It is regarded as weedy outside its natural habitats, and will colonize in disturbed and cultivated areas.

Under reasonable growing conditions this is a fast-growing bush, similar in appearance to cassava, but without any storage roots or tubers. It is an erect herb or subshrub 1 – 3 m high, its stems sometimes glabrous, and sometimes with spreading simple few-branched or stellate hairs.

The leaves are variable, up to 20 or even 30 cm long and wide, and can be deeply 3 – 9-lobed, the lobes oblong-lanceolate, coarsely obtusely serrate to entire, glabrous to sparsely long hispid on both surfaces. The petiole is anything up to 20 cm long, and the stipules are linear-lanceolate, sometimes 2 on each side of the petiole, 1 – 1.5 cm long.

The flowers are solitary, sub-apical and forming a terminal raceme, the pedicel 1.5 – 4 cm long. There are 4 or 5 epicalyx lobes, ovate-lanceolate, sparsely long hispid. The calyx is spathaceous, minutely 5-lobed, nearly entire, longer than the epicalyx, caducous at fruiting. The corolla is yellow with a purple centre, about 12 cm in diameter. The staminal column is 1.5 – 2.5 cm long, the anthers nearly sessile. The stigma is purple-black, spatulate to disk-shaped

The fruit capsule is ovoid-ellipsoid in shape, up to about 3 cm long, and densely hirsute. Many reniform, musk-scented seeds are produced.

The leaves and short succulent tips are usually cooked as a vegetable, but can be eaten fresh. Slightly older leaves are best steamed, boiled, fried or baked.

Traditionally aibika had medicinal uses such as treating sore throats, stomach aches and diarrhœa, and for increasing milk production.

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 20th September 2018