Abelmoschus esculentus. Okra.
Nat. Ord. — Malvaceae. Sex. Syst. — Monadelphia Polyandria.
Description. This is an Annual plant, known also by the name of Gombo, and is the Hibiscus Esculentus of some authors. The stems are somewhat woody toward the base, erect, branched, round, from three to six feet in bight, and three or four inches in diameter. The herbaceous part is covered with sharp bristles, and often bears purplish spots. The leaves are alternate, petioled; the lower ones being angular, the central ones palmate, and the upper ones subdigitate, the divisions being lanceolate-oblong ; all are serrate and somewhat bristly. The petioles are round, bristly, and as long as the leaves. The flowers are very large, axillary, solitary, on short peduncles, of a pale-yellow color, with a dark-crimson bottom. Involucre one, from six to twelve-leaved ; leaflets linear, bristly, deciduous. The calyx spathiform, of a very soft texture, bursting lengthwise on one side ; stigmas equal to the cells in the capsule. Capsule six to twelve inches in length, about one inch in diameter, somewhat bristly, especially the ridges, equal in number to the cells and valves, with a single row of round, smooth seeds in each cell.
History. This plant is a native of the West Indies, and is also cultivated in the Southern States, where the capsule is much employed in soups, and for pickles. The capsule is the part employed, and abounds in mucilage. The Hibiscus Abelmoschus, or Abelmoschus moschatus, a foreign evergreen shrub, grows in various parts of the world, in Egypt, the East and West Indies, etc., and affords the seeds known under the names of Semen Abelmoschi, alceae Aegypticse, and grana moschata. These are about the size of flaxseed, reniform, striated, of a grayish-brown color, a musk odor, and a warm rather spicy taste, and are used by the Arabs to flavor their coffee.
Properties and Uses.— Okra is mucilaginous, and may be employed wherever emollients and demulcents are indicated ; the leaves are occasionally employed for preparing emollient poultices. The seeds of the foreign plant were formerly considered stimulant and antispasmodic ; but are at present only used in perfumery.