east africa

Hibiscus acetosella - Cranberry Hibiscus


Cranberry Hibiscus flower and leaf.

Cranberry Hibiscus flower and leaf.

Cranberry hibiscus, also known as False Roselle, is a member of the large and diverse Malvaceae family with botanical relatives such as Baobab (Adansonia spp.), cotton, okra, cacao (Theobroma spp.) and Durian (Durio spp.) among many others. Hibiscus is the largest genera in the Malvaceae family with over 300 species.

Cranberry hibiscus has bright red edible leaves and is nematode and insect resistant and grows well in sandy soil. The leaves can be eaten raw and have a somewhat tangy yet agreeable flavor, similar to sorel. The pink blossoms can be blended with citrus juice and sugar to make a brightly colored beverage. I use cranberry hibiscus raw primarily in mixed salads. The leaves do contain oxalic acid, thus should not be consumed regularly in massive quantities.


Native to East and Central Africa.


Cranberry hibiscus can be propagated from either seeds or cuttings. Seedling plants tend to live longer and be more productive. Seeds can be sown any time of year in the tropics, or in early spring in a greenhouse in cooler climates. Germination is typically fast. Germinated seedlings can be transplanted to individual pots, or directly into the field if protected during initial establishment.