Abelmoschus moschatus Medikus

Abelmoschus moschatus Medikus




Hibiscus abelmoschus L.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kapas hantu, kapas hutan, gandapura
English Musk mallow, ambrette, mushkdana
Indonesia Gandapura, kasturi (general), kaka-pasan (Sundanese)
Philippines Dalupang, kastuli, kastiokastiokan (Tagalog)
Thailand Chamot-ton, som-chaba (Bangkok), mahakadaen (northern)
Vietnam C[aa]y b[oo]ng v[af]ng, b[us]p v[af]ng
French Ambretee, ketmie musquée

Geographical Distributions

A. moschatus occurs from India to southern China including Hainan and Taiwan and through South-East Asia to northern Australia and the Pacific. In Malesia it is common in the more humid areas, rare in the Lesser Sunda Islands and southern Papua New Guinea, lacking in the south-eastern Moluccas. It is cultivated commercially in Java, India (mainly in the Deccan and Carnatic), Madagascar and in parts of Central and South America. On a small scale it is cultivated and occasionally occurs as a weed throughout the tropics and in warm temperate areas.


It is a variable, annual or biennial, erect herb or herbaceous shrub that reaches between 0.5-3.5 m tall and hispid. It is often woody at base, with taproot or tuberous root. The stem is usually solid, but sometimes hollow. The petioles are 6-30 cm long with many oblique downwardly directed long sharp bristles. It is rarely sparsely hairy or hairless.

The leaves are arranged alternate, extremely variable in shape and size. The stipules are linear-slender with simple hairs. The lower leaves are 6-22 cm x 8-24 cm, orbicular to transversely elliptical in the outline and its base is heart-shaped, angular or 3-7-palmately lobed or parted. The higher leaves are usually narrower and often hastate or arrowhead-shaped. The lobes are spreading, oblong-lance-shaped, coarsely serrate- dentate but rarely entire. Both surfaces are hispid with simple hairs and usually minute star-shaped hairs but rarely hairless.

Flowers arise from the axils, solitary with 2-19 cm long pedicel, somewhat increasing in size when matured. The sepal is enclosing a flower cluster with 5-toothed apex that splits on one side during expansion of the petal, united and falling together with the petal. The outside is star-shaped, densely covered with short soft hairs while the inside is simply silky. It has 5 reverse egg-shaped petals, 3.5-10 cm x 2.5-5.5 cm, yellow with crimson centre or white to red, with scattered gland-hairs or hairless. The apex is rounded, its base fleshy and ciliate with simple hairs. The male reproductive organ column is much shorter than the petals, bearing anthers throughout, usually yellow, but dark purple at the base and hairless. The 5-celled ovary is ovoid and hirsute. It has only one style, distally 5-branched but the hairy branches sometimes united to various degrees. The stigmas are discoid.

Fruit is a dorsal suture dehiscent and has many seeds. It is an ovoid or spherical capsule, 2-8 cm long. They are occasionally spindle-shaped, acuminate with a short rostrum but somewhat angular that is usually hispid with simple stiff hairs. The black or dark brown colour hairs are either short simple hairs, minute star-shaped hairs but rarely hairless. The valves are papery or leathery textured, smooth and shining on the inside.

Seed is kidney-shaped which is 3-4.5 mm long, concentrically ribbed, somewhat warty and mostly hairless. It is sometimes rust-coloured and star-shaped covered with short soft black-brown hairand often smelling of musk.

Ecology / Cultivation

A. moschatus can grow in a variety of places, e.g. roadsides, brushwood, fallow land, and on the bunds of rice fields. In the tropics, it occurs up to 1650 m altitude in Indonesia, while in India it is cultivated up to 1000 m. A. moschatus requires a humid tropical or subtropical climate, although heavy and continuous rain affects crop growth negatively. The optimum temperature for vegetative growth is about 22-28°C, but it can tolerate temperatures up to 45°C. Frost is not tolerated. It is day-length sensitive, short days promoting early flowering. Low night temperatures also stimulate flowering. During flowering and fruiting dry weather is preferred. A. moschatus thrives in fertile loamy or sandy-loamy soil. Growth is often poor on clay and sandy soils and on saline or strongly alkaline soils. Waterlogging is not tolerated. Subsp. biakensis grows near beaches, subsp. tuberosus prefers locations with an annual dry period and where the vegetation is periodically burnt.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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