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Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)

Okra is valued for its edible green fruits, said to be shaped like lady's fingers - one of its common names in British English.
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra) fruits

Okra fruits (Photo: Bill Tarpenning)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench

Common name: 

okra, lady’s fingers, gumbo, okro (English); gombo, gumbo (French); bandakai, bindi (India); Kachang bendi (Malay); quimgombó (Spanish).

Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation.

Key Uses: 

Food, fibre, traditional medicine.

Known hazards: 

Irritating hairs are sometimes present on leaves and stems, and traces of alkaloid have been reported in leaves.


Genus: Abelmoschus

About this species

Okra is a cultigen (a plant that has been altered by humans through a process of selective breeding). The exact origin of okra is unknown, but it is thought to have come from Africa, where it has been grown as a crop for centuries. Evidence suggests it was grown in Egypt as long ago as 2,000 BC. Today it is widely cultivated for its edible green fruits, which are harvested when immature (after 3–5 days of development), and are infamous for their slimy mucilage.

Abelmoschus esculentus is also known by the synonym Hibiscus esculentus and the common name lady’s fingers, thought to be a fanciful reference to the slender, finger-shaped fruits of some cultivars.

The Malvaceae plant family, of which okra is a member, contains many economically important plants. These include cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), ornamental Hibiscus species, the genus Ceiba (from which kapok fibre is derived), durian fruit (Durio zibethinus) and balsawood (Ochroma pyramidale).


Hibiscus esculentus L., Abelmoschus bammia Webb, Abelmoschus longifolius (Willd.) Kostel. (Full list available on The Plant List)


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