The science bit
Shrub with slender 'drooping' stems, up to 3m tall. Leaves up to 12cm long and with serrated margins. Flowers delicate, pendulous, with pinkish-red petals that curve back over the flower. The petals have exquisite frilled lobes. Like many other Hibiscus species the staminal column is long and sticks out (exserted). Pollinated mostly by birds.
- Various hibiscus drinks are made around the world. Tea, which contains vitamin C and possibly lowers blood pressure, is made in West and East Africa, Mexico, India and Brazil. In Jamaica a drink called sorrel is made from hibiscus flowers and other herbs, roots, spices and cane sugar. In Cambodia, a drink is made by steeping hibiscus petals in hot water, then adding lime juice, honey and cold water.
- Some species are used as a red food colouring, and dried hibiscus flowers are eaten as a delicacy in Mexico.
Where it grows
East and south tropical Africa: Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania. Tropical conditions are the most favourable but the plant can survive periods of cold and drought. Will flourish in any fairly good soil and can tolerate coastal salt conditions.