Hibiscus, or rosemallow, is a large genus of about 200–220 species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae (the mallow family, along with members like cocoa, cotton, okra, baobab and durian) native to warm, temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and woody shrubs and small trees.
One species of Hibiscus, known as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas and jams (especially in the Caribbean).
In Mexico, the drink is known as Jamaican water or agua de Jamaica and is quite popular for its color, tanginess and mild flavor; once sugar is added, it tastes somewhat like cranberry juice. Dieters or persons with kidney problems often take it without adding sugar for its beneficial properties and as a natural diuretic. It is made by boiling the dehydrated flowers in water; once it is boiled, it is allowed to cool and drunk with ice.
In Egypt and Sudan, roselle petals are used to make a tea named after the plant karkade.
The Hibiscus is used as an offering to Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship. The Gumamela or Hibiscus rosa sinensis linn flower has antifungal, emmenagogue, emollient and refrigerant effect.
The bark of the hibiscus contains strong fibers. They can be obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea in order to let the organic material rot away. In Polynesia these fibers (fau, pūrau) are used for making grass skirts. They have also been known to be used to make wigs.
Hibiscus, especially white hibiscus, is considered to have medicinal properties in the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda. Roots make various concoctions believed to cure various ailments.
The natives of southern India use the Red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) for hair care purposes. The red flower and leaves, extracts of which can be applied on hair to tackle hair-fall and dandruff on the scalp. It is used to make hair-protective oils. A simple application involves soaking the leaves and flowers in water and using a wet grinder to make a thick paste, and used as a natural shampoo.
Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico.
The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Hawaiian women. A single flower is tucked behind the ear. Which ear is used indicates the wearer's availability for marriage.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national flower (Bunga Raya) of Malaysia.
In temperate zones, probably the most commonly grown ornamental species is Hibiscus syriacus, the common garden Hibiscus, also known in some areas as the "Rose of Althea" or "Rose of Sharon" (but not to be confused with the unrelated Hypericum calycinum, also called "Rose of Sharon"). In tropical and subtropical areas, the Chinese hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis), with its many showy hybrids, is the most popular hibiscus.
About 200-220 species are known, including: