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Piper nigrum L.


Piper nigrum L.




Piper aromaticum Lamk.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Lada hitam.
English Pepper, black pepper.
Indonesia Lada, merica.
Papua New Guinea Daka.
Philippines Paminta, paminta-liso (Cebuano), pamienta (Ilocano).
Burma (Myanmar) Ngayok-kaung.
Cambodia Mréch.
Laos Ph'ik no:yz, ph'ik th'ai.
Thailand Phrik-thai (Central), phrik-noi (Northern).
Vietnam Ti[ee]u, h[oof] ti[ee]u.
French Poivre.

Geographical Distributions

Piper nigrum is native to the Western Ghats of Kerala State, India, where it still occurs wild in the mountains. P. nigrum reached Southeast Asia as early as 100 BC, brought by Hindu colonists migrating from India to Indonesia and other countries. In about 1930, Japanese immigrants who had travelled through Southeast Asia introduced the plant into Para State of northern Brazil, where it became a major crop. In India, Indonesia and Malaysia, there is a long-established tradition of commercial cultivation by smallholders. The main areas of production in Indonesia are Lampung, Bangka and East and West Kalimantan, together accounting for 95% of the crop. Early in the 19th Century, P. nigrum also spread to Sarawak, where nowadays 95% of the Malaysian crop is produced. In the 1990s, Sri Lanka and China overtook Malaysia in the P. nigrum production, while Thailand and Vietnam also became important producers.


P. nigrum is a perennial woody climber that can reach up to 10 m long or more. In cultivation, the mature plants that grow on supports may also appear as bushy columns. They are 3-4 m tall and measuring 1.25 m in diametre.

The root system is with 5-20 main roots, measure 4 m or more deep and with feeder roots in the upper soil of 60 cm which form an extensive dense mat. The orthotropic stems climb and remaining vegetative, adhering to support with short adventitious roots that present at the nodes. The internodes are 5-12 cm long and measuring 4-6 cm in diametre. The plagiotropic branches are generative, without adventitious roots, measure 4-6 cm long of internodes and measuring 1-1.5 cm in diametre and produce higher-order of branches as well as the inflorescences.

The leaves are arranged alternately, simple, hairless, coriaceous and petiolate. The petiole is 2-5 cm long. The blade is ovate, measuring 8-20 cm x 4-12 cm, entire, oblique to rounded at the base, with tip acuminate, shiny dark green above, pale and densely glandular-dotted beneath with 5-7 veins.

The inflorescence is with a spike, appeared opposite the leaves on the plagiotropic branches and measures 3-15 cm long with 50-150 flowers. The flowers are unisexual or bisexual (cultivars usually up to 90% bisexual flowers) and without perianth. There are 2-4 stamens and with 3-5 lobes stigma.

The fruit is a spherical drupe, measuring 4-6 mm in diametre, sessile, with pulpy mesocarp and red when mature. The seed is spherical and measuring 3-4 mm in diametre.

Ecology / Cultivation

The most suitable climate for P nigrum is per-humid tropical, with a well-distributed annual rainfall of 2000-4000 mm associated with a mean air temperature of 25-30°C and a relative humidity of 65-95%. In Sarawak, annual rainfall may exceed 4000 mm in a non-seasonal climate, whereas on Bangka an average of 2500 mm is usual. In Lampung, the crop grows well in the north with over 3000 mm annual rainfall and in the south-east with sometimes less than 2000 mm. A drier period of 2-3 months, with a monthly rainfall of 60-80 mm, is not usually harmful. The crop thrives below 500 m altitude on the equator, but may grow at altitudes as high as 1500 m. P. nigrum grows well on soils ranging from heavy clay to light sandy clays. The soils should be deep, well-drained but with ample water-holding capacity to avoid water stress during marked dry periods. Mineral limitations are common, except on virgin soils. In brown-red latosols, N, P and Mg are often limiting. In physically suitable red-yellow podzols, deficiencies of most major and minor elements are not exceptional, with too high acidity and excess Al at pH below 5. The most favourable soil types are deep, well-drained, brown-red latosols or andosols, but the crop can grow well on deep sandy clay red-yellow podzols if carefully managed and amply provided with mineral nutrients and organic matter.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1) Cultivation

  2) Safety

  3) Malaysian Herbal Plants

  4) Essential Oil


    1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13: Spices.

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