Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Now that the summer season is here I feel it is important for local gardeners to know that some years ago a local gardener whom I'd given cuttings of Hibisicus radiatus to, without benefit of a computer, renamed it as kenaf and has sold it as such ever since, which has caused folks a lot of confusion as there is growing interest in the real kenaf as a source of fodder, biomass, summer greens for people, and paper pulp. Apparently the cannabis-like shape of the leaves of that annual hibiscus, and tart taste of the leaves, is what inspired them to make this faulty re-identification which has now, unfortunately, spread through the central Florida gardening community. Last week I sowed seeds of the kenaf strain 'Everglades 41' whose leaves do NOT resemble cannabis and that is especially good for eating. But here is the simple way to get clear on this: Hibiscus radiatus bears maroon-magenta blooms (see the pic), usually in the fall, and has leaves much like those of cannabis...all the kenaf strains and cultivars bear pale yellow blooms that VERY closely resemble those of okra (see pic)...some have leaves much like those of cannabis, some have leaves resembling those of okra. They also have a tart taste. I feel that those of us who teach classes, and sell plants to the public, can best serve folks if we do our best to be informed ourselves, even if it means resorting to using a computer now and then. No matter how long we've gardened and studied plants and taught classes, there is always something new to learn, and we can now and then be mistaken, which is okay.


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