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Family: Malvaceae

Scientific name: Abelmoschus escuntus 

Authority: (L.) Moench

Synonym: Hibiscus esculentus L.

Zulu names: amandwandwa

Other names: common okra, lady’s finger, okra (English) gumbo commun, gombo (Afrikaans)

Description: A.esculentus is a woody shrub that grows in the Northern parts of KwaZulu Natal. It has palmately lobed broad leaves, yellow to whitish-yellow flowers with a purple centre, and musky scented capsules fruits containing many seeds.

Amandwandwa was the name of a large tribe in Zulu land that merged with Shaka’s people. The term ‘amandwandwa’ literally means ‘precious things’. 


  • The edible fruits are eaten as food.
  • The roasted seeds are used as a substitute for coffee.
  • The edible leaves are eaten as a leafy vegetable. 
  • The leaves are used as poultices to beautify the skin.
  • The leaves are used to treat a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • The leaves are used to treat scurvy.
  • The leaves are used to induce sweat. 
  • The plant is used as a source of fibre. 
  • The plant is cultivated to rehabilitate polluted soils. 

Reference and further research:

  • Amakiri, J.O. and Onofeghara, F.A., 1983. Effect of crude oil pollution on the growth of Zea mays, Abelmoschus esculentus and Capsicum frutescens. Oil and Petrochemical pollution, 1(3), pp.199-205.
  • Bridges, D.C. and J.M.Chandler. 1986. Area of influence of selected weeds in Texas cotton. Proc. South. Weed Sci. Soc. 39:394. 
  • Kropf, A., 1915. A Kafir-English Dictionary. Lovedale Mission Press.
  • Kwon, S.L., Smith Jr, R.J. and Talbert, R.E., 1994. Distance of Interference of Red Rice (Orya sativa) in Rice (O. sativa). Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science, 48(1), pp.93-99.
  • Mann, R.J., 1867. The Kaffir Race of Natal. Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London, 5, pp.277-297.
  • Ntuli, N.R., Zobolo, A.M., Siebert, S.J. and Madakadze, R.M., 2012. Traditional vegetables of northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Has indigenous knowledge expanded the menu. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 7(45), pp.6027-6034.
  • Siemonsma, J.S. & Kouamé, C., 2004. Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>. Accessed 28 September 2023.

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