In a conversation recently with a friend at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, he told me about a plant familiar to him from Mexico, which turned out to be Roselle. From Wikipedia:

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa, used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion, in which it may also be known as carcade. It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall.


A stem of Hibiscus sabdariffa showing flower, calyx and leaves, at Wave Hill, the Bronx

The flower is very similar to the flower of okra, Abelmoschus esculentus (formerly Hibiscus esculentus); see the posting on “Abutilon and its relatives”.

The plant has many names in many languages, including Flor de Jamaica in Mexico. And it has many uses: bast fiber from the stem of the plant, food coloring, folk medicine, dishes made with leaves, beverage, jam. More from Wikipedia:

In Mexico, ‘agua de Flor de Jamaica’ (water flavored with roselle) frequently called “agua de Jamaica” is most often homemade. It is prepared by boiling dried sepals and calyces of the Sorrel/Flower of Jamaica plant in water for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar. It is often served chilled.

A pile of calyxes gathered for making the beverage:


And the beverage, ready for drinking:


Commercial versions of the beverage, some carbonated, are available in many countries.

2 Responses to “Roselle”

  1. John Wells Says:

    It’s very familiar to me, from the West Indies, where it is known as sorrel. We all drink sorrel at Christmas and on festive occasions. People gve me sorrel to drink in Montserrat every time I go there. (As you know, my civil partner is Montserratian.)

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    Not to be confused (as I briefly did) with the rosella, any of six species of Australian parrots. My confusion arose from having seen several instances of the green rosella (Platycercus caledonicus, endemic to Tasmania) yesterday. Note also the contradiction between the species name and the location, which apparently arose from a confusion between two specimens brought back from an exploratory trip.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: