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Bixa orellana L.


Bixa orellana L.





Vernacular Names

Malaysia Jarak belanda, kesumba, kunyit jawa.
English Annatto (Anatto, Arnatto) tree, lipstick tree.
Indonesia Kesumba (General), galuga (Sundanese).
Thailand Kam tai, kam sêt.
Philippines Echuete (Tagalog), sotis (Bisaya), achuete (Ilokano).
Cambodia Châm'-puu, châm'-puu chrâluëk'.
Laos Kh'am, satii, sômz phuu.
Vietnam Diêù nhuôm.
French Rocouyer, annato.

Geographical Distributions

Bixa orellana is native to Central America and tropical South America. It is widely planted and naturalised in the tropical regions of the world, including Southeast Asia.


Bixa orellana is an evergreen shrub or small tree which can grow up to 2-6(-8) m tall. The trunk measures up to 10 cm in diametre. The bark is light to dark brown, tough and smooth, sometimes fissured and lenticellate. The inner bark is filled with orange sap. The branches are greenish and densely rusty-scaly when young but become dark brown later. They are ringed at the nodes.

The leaves are arranged spirally, simple, herbaceous, stipulate, ovate, measuring 7.5-24 cm x 4-16 cm, shallowly cordate to truncate at the base, long-acuminate at apex, dark green above, greyish or brownish-green beneath, and scaly when young but nearly hairless. The first leaves are cordate. The petiole is 4.5-1 cm long, cylindrical and thickened at both ends.

The flowers are borne in terminal, 8-50-flowered panicles, fragrant and measure 4-6 cm across. The pedicel is scaly, and thickened at the apex that bears 5-6 large glands. The 4-5 free sepals are obovate. They are 10-12 cm long and caduceus. There are (4-)5-7 petals which are obovate, measuring 2-3 cm x 1-2 cm, pinkish, whitish or purplish tinged. The stamens are numerous while the anthers are violet. The ovary is superior, unilocular, with style 12-15 mm long and becomes thickened upwards.

The fruit is a spherical, or broadly to elongated ovoid capsule. It measures 2-4 cm x 2-3.5 cm, flattened, 2-valved, more or less densely clothed with long bristles, green, greenish-brown or red when mature and many-seeded. The seeds are 4-5 mm long, obovoid and angular, and with bright orange-red fleshy seed coat. Seedling is with epigeal germination, with thin, ovate, nervate cotyledons, with a fairly long hypocotyl, and alternate.


Ecology / Cultivation

Bixa orellana requires a frost-free, warm, humid climate and a sunny location. It can grow in a wide variety of tropical to subtropical climates and needs little care, though in places where rainfall is not distributed equally throughout the year, irrigation may be necessary. It grows in almost all types of soils, with a preference for neutral and slightly alkaline soils. It grows into a larger tree when planted in deeper and more fertile soil, rich in organic matter. It does well on limestone, where the topsoil is only a few centimetres thick and overlies a coral base. In Indonesia, it is planted up to 2000 m altitude.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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