Cook, Charles G. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Weslaco, Texas.
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An annual, short-day, herbaceous plant, Hibiscus cannabinus (of the Malvaceae family), which is cultivated for its stem fibers. Kenaf (see illustration) usually grows upright, reaching 4.5 m (15 ft) in height, and is cylindrical and either branched or unbranched. The stem is composed of two fibers: bast and core. The bast fibers, located in the bark, are long compared to the core fibers, produced in the stem's interior. The leaves either are entirely heart-shaped or display radiating lobes. Flowers are typically yellow with deep red centers. Wild forms of kenaf are found in east and central Africa, where kenaf has been used for both fiber and food for several centuries. Selection and breeding programs have developed varieties with higher fiber yields, improved disease resistance, and reduced branching. Among the approximately 200 species of Hibiscus, roselle (H. sabdariffa var. altissima) is occasionally referred to as kenaf. See also: Malvales
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