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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Hibiscus esculentus (Okra, Gombo, Gumbo, Bindi, Lady's Fingers)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Malvales > Family: Malvaceae > Genus: Hibiscus

The young fruit are eaten as a vegetable. They are very mucilaginous which gives soups and caseroles a thick consistency. Okra is tropical in origin but there is uncertainty whether it was domesticated in Africa or India. It has a long history of cultivation in West Africa, Ethiopia, Sudan and India. The cultivated varieties appear to be complex polyploid (many sets of chromosomes) hybrids between species in the Abelmoschus section of the genus Hibiscus. Modern day cultivation is particularly intense in India and the southern states of the USA. Needs warm condition in order to grow successfully.


  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M. 1993. Vegetables. Pan Books, London.

Text by Hamish Robertson