Abelmoschus moschatus: Musk mallow

Family: Malvaceae
Common name: Musk mallow, Musk okra, Ornamental okra, Ambrette, Annual hibiscus, Abelmosk, Rose mallow, Tropical jewel hibiscus

Musk mallow plants belong to the Ladies’ finger and Hibiscus family of Malvaceae family known for their bright, beautiful flowers. These plants are native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa but are now cultivated worldwide as ornamental plants and also for their seeds that provide some essential oils.

The plant can grow to a height of up to 2 meters, with hairy stems that are slightly woody towards the base. Leaves have 3 to 7 lobes and are covered with bristly hairs. Margins of the leaves are serrated, sometimes sharp and sometimes smooth.

The flowers are very bright – pink, yellow, orange, or red in color, filling your garden with large, beautiful flowers. Musk mallow plants bloom in spring and summer with 5-petaled flowers that look very much like Hibiscus flowers with a long style on which are connected the stamens and stigma.

Flowers are about 8-10 cm in diameter with petals that are 6-8 cm. These flowers last only for a day, but since the plant blooms abundantly, the plant is covered with flowers most of the year.

Once pollinated, the flowers produce small, roughly circular seeds that have a heavy fragrance like musk. The oil obtained from the Musk mallow seeds were used to make perfumes long ago, but are not used anymore since there are cheaper synthetic chemicals to replicate the smell.

These plants are easy to cultivate from seeds or stem cuttings, growing and blooming very quickly once it’s established in the soil. They can tolerate drought, humidity, poor soil conditions, and neglect making them ideal garden plants for amateurs.

Blooming takes place in full, direct sunlight with sufficient watering and well-drained soil. Regular fertilization can ensure that you have a healthy plant that continues to adorn your garden for many years.

Tender shoots, leaves, and tubers are used as food in different cuisines. Seeds can be roasted and eaten. Essential oil obtained from the seeds are used in flavoring food materials, and also in the cosmetics industry.

The leaves, seeds, and tubers contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor propertis, and have been used in traditional medicine to treat fever, stomach aches, cuts, wounds, sprains, joint pain, rheumatism, stomach ailments, tooth pain, and skin diseases. Seeds can be used as pesticides, or even burned as incense. Stem fibers is used to make ropes and sails.

A few pests and diseases that can affect the Musk Mallow are aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites, most of which can be controlled by spraying soap and neem oil solution regularly.

Propagation is through seeds, tubers, and stem cuttings.