and are commonly known as hibiscus, sorrel, and flor de Jamaica, or less widely known as rosemallow.The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek word (hibískos), which was the name Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) gave to Althaea officinalis.
The leaves are alternate, ovate to lanceolate, often with a toothed or lobed margin. The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, ranging from white to pink, red, orange, purple or yellow, and from 4–18 cm broad. Flower color in certain species, such as H. mutabilis and H. tiliaceus, changes with age. The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity.
Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs. Many species are used to attract butterflies and bees. Hibiscus is also a primary ingredient in many herbal teas.
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 Jamaica and many other islands in the Caribbean, the drink is known as sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa; not to be confused with Rumex acetosa, a species sharing the common name sorrel) and is considered a quite popular at Christmas time. It is served cold and mixed with other herbs, roots, and spices and sweetened with cane sugar. Often it is served mixed with Jamaican rum or wine but is also refreshing without any alcohol. Roselle is typically boiled in an enamel-coated large stock pot as most West Indians believe the metal from aluminum, steel or copper pots will destroy the natural minerals and vitamins. A large quantity of the flower is used to ensure a thick dark red tea is made. The tea is popular as a natural diuretic and contains vitamin C and minerals and is used traditionally as a mild medicine.
All over the world, the tea drink is consumed hot or cold. It is known as Bissap in West Africa, Karkadé in Egypt and Sudan, flor de Jamaica in Mexico, Gongura in India and Brazil. Some refer to it as roselle, a common name for the hibiscus flower.