|Positive ||onalee ||On Nov 2, 2005, onalee from Brooksville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:
Kenaf (Hibicus Canabinus L.) is an annual, non-wood fiber plant indigenous to central Africa. Akin to okra and cotton, kenaf grows to heights of 12 to 18 feet in a six-month growing season.
Kenaf produces 5 to 10 tons of dry fiber per acre, consisting of external bast fibers (about 1/3 of the plant) and internal core fibers (the remaining 2/3 of the plant).
Uses of the fiber range from paper, grass mats, fiberglass substitutes, animal bedding, oil-absorbent materials, chicken and cat litter, animal forage, particle board, and potting soil, to name a few.
It is related to cotton and okra, as well as roselle. Kenaf has two leaf conformations, entire or divided. All kenaf plants start life with entire leaves. As they grow, some cultivars start to produce divided leaves, somewhere around the 7th to 10th nodes above the cotyledons.
Kenaf produces showy hibiscus-type flowers, all domestic cultivars have yellow flowers with red blood spots at the base of each petal, however there is some variation for flower color.
Kenaf is also used as a forage plant in Africa and is being researched as such in the US, with 15% - 35% protein in new growth it makes an excellent forage material for ruminants (cows, sheep, goats, deer) but is too high in protein for animals such as horses.
Gregg is a newer variety developed by Charlie Cook, Andy Scott, and others in South Texas. Gregg boasts a slightly longer growing period than other varieties which may contribute to greater fiber production. For reasons not yet fully known, Gregg seed tends to have slightly lower germination qualities than the other varieties. Gregg has a palmate leaf shape.
For more information about Kenaf, check Mississippi State University and Purdue University web sites as they are both doing research on Kenaf uses, yields, etc.
For the average home gardener, Kenaf are fast growing plants that can be used for hedges or to quickly cover a fence or wall. Keep the tips trimmed to make the plants spread out - stop trimming in September as blooms will begin in late Sept or October, depending on your zone. Kenaf get lovely pale yellow blooms with red/maroon eyes up and down each branch and will bloom for several weeks, until killed by frost.
I've found these to be quite easy to grow, requiring little care. In fact, they seem to do best with less attention, requiring little fertilizer and low water needs - grow in full sun.