Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Abelmoschus esculentus
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Hibiscus esculentus
International Common Names
- English: lady's finger
- Spanish: quimbombo
- French: gombo
- Portuguese: quiabo
Local Common Names
- Italy: bammia d'Egitto; corna dei Greci; ocra
- Netherlands: malve, eetbare
- Sweden: gronsakhibisk
- ABMES (Abelmoschus esculentus)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Abelmoschus esculentus is a herb extensively cultivated for its fruits that are consumed as vegetables. It is also used for fibre production and as a medicinal plant. This species has escaped cultivation and can be found naturalized in weedy fields near cultivation, abandoned farms, disturbed fields and meadows. It has been listed as invasive in Anguilla and in Costa Rica, but there is no information available about its ecological or economic impacts.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Malvales
- Family: Malvaceae
- Genus: Abelmoschus
- Species: Abelmoschus esculentus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Abelmoschus esculentus (2n = 130) is probably an amphidiploid (allotetraploid), derived from A. tuberculatus Pal & Singh (2n = 58), a wild species from India, and a still unknown species with 2n = 72 chromosomes.
Another edible okra species occurs in the humid parts of West and central Africa. Described originally as a botanical variety (Hibiscus manihot L. var. caillei A. Chev.), it has been recognized as a distinct species (A. caillei (A. Chev.) Stevels). There are no apparent differences in use between the ordinary (A. esculentus) and West African okra (A. caillei), which is why they are often lumped together. Morphologically the West African okra differs in several respects, but its epicalyx offers the best discriminating characteristics with 5-10 free ovate segments, 10-35 mm x 4-13 mm. The plant is more robust than A. esculentus, and crop duration may exceed 12 months. It has very many chromosomes (2n = approximately 192 (184-200)) and it might be an allohexaploid, A. esculentus being one of the parents. There are many cultivars of okra. Some of the better known are 'Clemson Spineless' (USA) and 'Pusa Sawani' (India).
DescriptionTop of page
Stout, erect, annual herb, up to 4 m tall. Leaves spirally arranged, leaf-blade up to 50 cm in diameter, more or less deeply 3-, 5- or 7-lobed; petiole up to 50 cm long, stipules filiform, up to 20 mm long, often split to the base. Flowers solitary in the leaf axils or in pseudoracemes by reduction of the upper leaves, yellow, self-fertile; pedicel up to 3 cm long in flower, up to 7 cm long in fruit; epicalyx of 7-15 free, linear segments, 5-25 mm x 0.5-3 mm; calyx spathaceous, 2-6 cm long, splitting on one side during the expansion of the corolla, adnate to and falling with the corolla; corolla with 5 obovate petals, each about 3-7 cm long and wide, yellow with a dark purple centre. Fruit a cylindrical to pyramidal capsule, 5-35 cm long, 1-5 cm in diameter, completely, partially or not loculicidal, green, greenish-purple or completely purple when young, brownish when mature. Seeds numerous, globose, 3-6 mm in diameter, blackish. Germination is epigeal.
DistributionTop of page
The genus Abelmoschus originated in South-East Asia. A. esculentus, however, is a cultigen of uncertain origin. It is now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions, but is particularly popular in India, West Africa and Brazil. Okra is common in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, but of little importance in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 21 Jul 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Benin||Present||Okra production (2008) 48,060 MT|
|Burkina Faso||Present||Okra production (2008) 27,000 MT (F)|
|Cameroon||Present||Okra production (2008) 35,000 MT (F)|
|Congo, Republic of the||Present||Okra production (2008) 900 MT (F)|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Present||Okra production (2008) 115,867 MT|
|Djibouti||Present||Okra production (2008) 20 MT (F)|
|Egypt||Present||Okra production (2008) 107,000 MT (F)|
|Ghana||Present||Okra production (2008) 108,000 MT (F)|
|Kenya||Present||Okra production (2008) 5,000 MT (F)|
|Mauritius||Present||Okra production (2008) 1,270 MT|
|Nigeria||Present||Okra production (2008) 1,039,000 MT|
|Senegal||Present||Okra production (2008) 12,000 MT (F)|
|Sudan||Present||Okra production (2008) 223,650 MT|
|Bahrain||Present||Okra production (2008) 895 MT (F)|
|Brunei||Present||Okra production (2008) 343 MT (F)|
|India||Present||Okra production (2008) 3,497,200 MT (F)|
|Iraq||Present||Okra production (2008) 141,000 MT (F)|
|Jordan||Present||Okra production (2008) 5,550 MT|
|Kuwait||Present||Okra production (2008) 2,500 MT (F)|
|Lebanon||Present||Okra production (2008) 2,800 MT (F)|
|Oman||Present||Okra production (2008) 4,736 MT (F)|
|Pakistan||Present||Okra production (2008) 114,657 MT|
|Philippines||Present||Okra production (2008) 29,485 MT|
|Qatar||Present||Okra production (2008) 550 MT (F)|
|Saudi Arabia||Present||Okra production (2008) 46,000 MT (F)|
|Syria||Present||Okra production (2008) 15,290 MT (F)|
|Turkey||Present||Okra production (2008) 37,543 MT|
|United Arab Emirates||Present||Okra production (2008) 1,500 MT (F)|
|Yemen||Present||Okra production (2008) 19,000 MT (F)|
|Albania||Present||Okra production (2008) 8,000 MT (F)|
|Cyprus||Present||Okra production (2008) 2,336 MT|
|Barbados||Present||Okra production (2008) 650 MT (F)|
|Belize||Present||Okra production (2008) 30 MT|
|Guatemala||Present||Okra production (2008) 6,375 MT (F)|
|Jamaica||Present||Okra production (2008) 3,432 MT|
|Mexico||Present||Okra production (2008) 35,711 MT|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Okra production (2008) 110 MT (F)|
|United States||Present||Okra production (2008) 10,000 MT (F)|
|Fiji||Present||Okra production (2008) 1,100 MT (F)|
|Guyana||Present||Okra production (2008) 4,200 MT (F)|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Growth and development
Okra usually flowers within 40-90 days after sowing; its cropping period rarely exceeds 6 months. Self-pollination and flower opening take place in the early morning. Partial cross-pollination by insects may take place. For vegetable use, the fruits are picked about one week after anthesis. It takes about 1 month from anthesis to mature fruit. In the seed crop, vegetative growth stops soon after anthesis, all assimilates being partitioned to the reproductive plant parts. In the vegetable crop, the picking of young fruits permits sustained vegetative growth, prolonging the harvest.
A. esculentus needs temperatures above 20°C for normal growth and development. Germination percentage and speed of emergence are optimal at 30-35°C. Flower initiation and flowering are delayed at higher temperatures (positive correlation between temperature and number of vegetative nodes). A. esculentus is a short-day plant, but its wide geographical distribution (up to latitudes of 35-40°) indicates that cultivars differ markedly in sensitivity. Flower initiation and flowering are hardly affected by daylength in popular subtropical cultivars such as 'Clemson Spineless' and 'Pusa Sawani'. Most tropical cultivars show quantitative short-day responses, but qualitative responses also occur. The shortest reported critical daylength is 12.5 hours. The West African okra is considerably more sensitive to photoperiod. This partly explains its limited geographical distribution (up to latitudes of 10-15°) and longer life-cycle. The shortest reported critical daylength is 12.25 hours. Okra does well on fertile light or heavy soils if well drained.
UsesTop of page
Okra is a popular and important food worldwide. Its tender fruits are used in making many dishes. It is eaten as a vegetable, raw, boiled, steamed, fried and stir-fried and is a common ingredient as a thickening agent in soups and in gumbo (thick soup, containing vegetables including okra, and meat, originally from Africa). The mature fruit (a beaked capsule) can have a high mucilaginous content, depending on cultivar. Mature capsules are dried and stored in parts of Africa for local use in the high temperature season for the preparation of soups and stews. Because of the mucilaginous properties of the plant, the fruits are also used. To preserve okra, it is dried, canned, powdered, pickled, or frozen.
Mature seeds yield edible oil, which is used as a salad oil. The seeds can be baked and ground into meal for use as a coffee substitute. The leaves are sometimes used as a cooked green vegetable or as feed for cattle. The fibre of mature okra stems is sometimes processed into rope and paper. Okra gum is used industrially. The yield in oil, the quality of its proteins and the use of the stem in paper-making reveal that okra has economic potential for cultivation. In Asian medicine the fruit of the okra plant A. esculentus is used as a mucilaginous food additive against gastric irritative and inflammatory diseases (Elzebroek and Wind, 2008; George, 2010; Maiti et al., 2012).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
Human food and beverage
- Beverage base
- Spices and culinary herbs
BibliographyTop of page
Charrier A, 1984. Genetic resources of Abelmoschus (okra). International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), Rome, Italy.
IBPGR, 1991. Report of an international workshop on okra genetic resources, held at the National Bureau for Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, India, 8-12 October 1990. International Crop Network Series. 5. International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), Rome, Italy.
Markose BL & Peter KV, 1990. Okra. Review of research on vegetables and tuber crops. Technical Bulletin 16. Kerala Agricultural University Press, Mannuthy, Kerala, India.
Martin FW & Rubert R, 1978. Vegetables for the hot humid tropics. Part 2. Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus. Mayaguez Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Puerto Rico, United States.
Siemonsma JS, 1982. West African okra - morphological and cytogenetical indications for the existence of a natural amphidiploid of Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench and A. manihot (L.) Medikus. Euphytica 31:241- 252.
Siemonsma JS, 1982. La culture du gombo (Abelmoschus spp.), l gume-fruit tropical (avec référence spéciale à la Côte d'Ivoire) [Cultivation of the tropical fruit-vegetable okra (Abelmoschus spp.), with special reference to Ivory Coast]. Thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands.
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Yan WenXue, Shi YanXia, Chai ALi, Xie XueWen, Guo MenYan, Li BaoJu, 2018. Verticillium wilt of okra caused by Verticillium dahliae Kleb. in China. Mycobiology. 46 (3), 254-259. DOI:10.1080/12298093.2018.1505246
Zhai W B, Zhang M Z, Gao H, Meng J, Shi J Y, Zhang W W, Qi F J, 2019. Occurrence of Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae on okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) in North China. Plant Disease. 103 (6), 1413-1414. DOI:10.1094/PDIS-07-18-1279-PDN
Zhao Qian, Chai ALi, Shi YanXia, Xie XueWen, Li BaoJu, 2016. First report of grey mould disease on Abelmoschus esculentus caused by Botrytis cinerea in China. Journal of Phytopathology. 164 (5), 354-357. DOI:10.1111/jph.12424
Zia-ur-Rehman M, Hameed U, Ali C A, Haider M S, Brown J K, 2017. First report of Chickpea chlorotic dwarf virus infecting okra in Pakistan. Plant Disease. 101 (7), 1336. DOI:10.1094/PDIS-11-16-1626-PDN
Ziedan E S H E S, 2012. First report of Alternaria pod blight of okra in Egypt. International Journal of Agricultural Technology. 8 (7), 2239-2243. http://www.ijat-aatsea.com/pdf/v8_n7_12_December/8_IJAT_2012_8(7)_El-%20Sayed%20Hussein%20-%20Plant%20Pathology.pdf
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