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Tree description: Edible hibiscus is a large annual or perennial herb growing up to 6' tall and reaching 3' wide. Its palmate leaves (6-11" in diameter) are highly dissected with five to nine deep lobes. The largest, widest leaves form at the base of the plant, where there may be some small side branches. The blooms (4-5" in diameter) are pale yellow with a dark maroon to purple center eye, and emerge from the terminal end of a central flowering stalk. Attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. The leaves of sunset muskmallow are edible, and impart a mucilaginous texture to dishes when cooked. Deer tend to avoid this plant.
Scientific Name: Abelmoschus manihot
Common Name: sunset muskmallow, edible hibiscus
Origin: Southeastern Asia
Importance: The bark is said to be emmenagogue. 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. In Nepal the root juice is warmed and applied to sprains. Young leaves - raw or cooked, they are sweet and mucilaginous. 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 or a spinach substitute. Young shoots are harvested when about 15cm long. Flower buds - raw or cooked.