Myristica fragrans

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Local names:
Dutch (nootmuskaatboom,nootmuskaat,foelie), English (nutmeg tree,nutmeg,mace), French (noix muscade,muscadier commun,muscadier), German (muskatbaum), Italian (noce moscata,mace), Portuguese (moscadeira), Spanish (nuez moscada,nogal moscado)

M. fragrans is a spreading, medium to large sized, aromatic evergreen tree usually growing to around 5-13 m high, occasionally 20 m.

Leaves alternate, pointed, dark green 5-15 cm × 2-7 cm arranged along the branches and are borne on leaf stems about 1 cm long, shiny on the upper surface.

Flowers dioecious, pale yellow, waxy, fleshy and bell-shaped.  Male flowers 5-7 mm long and in groups of 1-10; female flowers up to 1 cm long and in groups of 1-3 occasionally both sexes are found on the same tree.  

Fruit oval or pyriform, drooping, yellow, smooth, 6-9 cm long with a longitudinal ridge and a fleshy husk. When ripe, husk splits into 2 halves revealing a purplish-brown, shiny seed surrounded by a leathery red or crimson network of tissue.  The shiny, brown seed inside, and the kernel of the seed is the Nutmeg. The brown seed has a red cover that makes another spice called Mace.  

Bark contains watery pink or red sap.


Grows wild on rich volcanic soils in lowland tropical rain forests.  
Nutmeg needs a warm and humid tropical climate.

Native range

Tree management

Young nutmeg plants should be planted under 50% shade, but can be reduced progressively and after 6-7 years they can grow without shade at all.  Trees should be well spaced so that branches don’t touch and not to hamper flowering.  Lower branches should be pruned to facilitate collection of dropped seeds.

After de-husking, the red feathery aril (mace) should be removed, flattened out and dried in the sun for 10-15 days. The nuts are dried separately for 4-8 weeks till the kernels rattle within the shells.

Grows wild on rich volcanic soils in lowland tropical rain forests.  
Nutmeg needs a warm and humid tropical climate.

Propagation is mainly by seeds. Other methods include air layering and grafting.  Budding on (male) seedlings or on other species of the same family have also been successful.

  Nutmeg is a mild, delicious baking spice with a sweet smell commonly added to sausages, meats, fish, soups, fruit pies, eggnog, puddings, vegetables and cakes, biscuits, custards, buns etc. It tastes very good in drinks like tea and soft drinks or mixed in milk and alcohol. Nutmeg is more pungent and sweeter than mace.  The distinctive flavors are due to volatile oils, present in both tissues.

Medicine:  It is widely used as a traditional medicine in the Middle East and Asia.  In Western medicine nutmeg is used as a stomachic, stimulant, carminative as well as for intestinal catarrh and colic, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, bad breath, to stimulate appetites and to control flatulence.  It is also valuable for its aphrodisiac and anti-inflammatory properties.

Essential oils: Grenada is the world's second largest producer of essential oils derived from the seeds of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans. It also contains a valuable, thick, yellow, fat called Nutmeg butter used to make candles and is important in c