Time of bloom: July to September.
Seed-time: September until cut off by frost.
Range: Southeastern and Gulf States. An escape from cultivation.
Habitat: Fields, roadsides, and waste places.
Okra was brought from Africa in the old slave-trading days. It is cultivated in the South for its mucilaginous green pods, which are used for thickening soups, ketchups, and stews, or cooked whole as a table vegetable; also its ripe seeds are often roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. Although treated as an annual, the plant will live for years if not killed by frost, and therefore it is rather a bad weed when out of bounds.
Stem eighteen inches to three feet high, rather stout, with few branches. Leaves somewhat thick in texture, rounded in outline but five- to seven-lobed, the segments cut about halfway to the base, coarsely toothed, and with petioles about as long as the leaves.
The whole plant is softly hairy. Flowers two inches or more broad, cream-yellow, with a purplish brown spot at the base of each of the five petals. Fully ripened pods are two to four inches long, nearly three-quarters of an inch thick at base, tapering to a point, and ten-ribbed. The ribs soon become strongly fibrous, and when the fruit is wanted for food, the pods must be picked when about two days old. Seeds dark brown, nearly globular, with a white eye on one side; they retain their vitality for about five years.
Small patches may be hand-pulled or grubbed out. More extensive areas require to be put under cultivation, in order to destroy the perennial roots, and stir dormant seeds into germination.