Bixa orellana

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
Fruit in Brazil
© Anthony Simons
Tree: Tree planted as a live fence.
© Rafael T. Cadiz
Immature fruit
© Rafael T. Cadiz
Mature fruit
© Rafael T. Cadiz

Local names:
Arabic (galuga), Bengali (latkan), Creole (chiót,woukou), English (lipstick tree,arnato tree,annatto tree), Filipino (sotis,echuete), French (chiote,annatto,roucou,rocouyer,annato), Hindi (latkan), Indonesian (kunyit jawa,kesumba,jarak belanda), Javanese

Bixa orellana is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 2-8 m high; trunk up to 10 cm in diameter; bark light to dark brown, tough, smooth, sometimes fissured, lenticellate; inner bark pinkish towards the outside with orange sap, slightly bitter; twigs green with minute, rusty, reddish-brown scales, becoming dark brown.

Leaves spirally arranged, simple, stipulate, ovate, 7.5-24 x 4-16 cm, shallowly cordate to truncate at base, longly acuminate at apex, green or dark green above, grey or brownish-green beneath; scaly when young, glabrous; petiole terete, thickened at both ends, 2.5-12 cm long.

Flowers in terminal branched panicles, 8-50 flowered, fragrant, 4-6 cm across; pedicel scaly, thickened at the apex, bearing 5-6 large glands; sepals 4-5, free, obovate, 1-1.2 cm long, caducous, covered with reddish-brown scales; petals 4-7, obovate, 2-3 x 1-2 cm, pinkish, whitish or purplish tinged; stalks scaly; stamens numerous, 1.6 cm long; anthers violet; pistil 1.6 cm long, composed of bristly 1-celled, superior ovary; style thickened upwards, 12-15 mm long; a short, 2-lobed stigma.

Fruit a spherical or broadly elongated ovoid capsule, 2-4 x 2-3.5 cm, flattened, 2 valved, more or less densely cloaked with long bristles, green, greenish-brown or red when mature; seeds numerous, obovoid and angular, 4.5 mm long, with bright orange-red fleshy coats.

‘Bixa’ is derived from a local South American name.


B. orellana requires a frost-free, warm, humid climate and a sunny location. It can grow in tropical to subtropical climates where rainfall is distributed throughout the year.

Native range
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, Venezuela

Tree management

Seeds are sown at a spacing of 25 x 10 cm and at a minimum depth of 2.5 cm because of their long taproots. Seedlings are planted out from the nursery after about 4 months, when they are about 15-25 cm in height. When planting them out, precautions should be taken to minimize sun scorch and damage to the roots. Weeding must be done as often as possible to keep the young trees free of weeds, but care must be taken not to disturb the roots. Mulching is necessary if there is not enough rainfall to keep the soil moist. Pruning is practiced to produce a canopy that is easy to harvest, although this may impede a 2nd harvest from the same branch within the same year. The mature fruit bunch is cut with sharp clippers just above the node below the branch; this way a 2nd crop may be collected in a 12-month period.

Reported yields are 4.5-5 kg of dried seed/tree per year. Storage behaviour is intermediate; seeds tolerate desiccation to 10% mc, but further desiccation to 4.2% mc reduces viability. Longevity is reduced for seeds stored at -20 deg. C. Sun-dried seeds retain viability for over 1 year, but germination reduces to 12% when stored for 3 years. Seeds stored for 12 months at 23 deg. C and 45% r.h. or 9.8% mc experience no loss in viability; little loss is experienced with seeds at 9.8% mc and 5 deg. C, while storage temperatures of 5 deg. C and -20 deg. C damage the viability of seeds at 4.2% mc.

B. orellana requires a frost-free, warm, humid climate and a sunny location. It can grow in tropical to subtropical climates where rainfall is distributed throughout the year.

B. orellana is usually grown from seed taken from freshly gathered ripe pods, which germinate better than dry ones. Germination is epigeal. Vegetative propagation is possible by means of budding, air-layering or cuttings. Propagating by cuttings allows selection of high-yielding, rapidly growing cultivars that flower early and profusely and bear fruit within 2 years.

Poison:  A waxy substance that has paralytic action on mammalian intestinal parasites is present in the seed coat. Bixin extracted from the seed coat is used in India as an insect repellent.

  In Mexico, Spain and the Philippines, the thin pigmented pulp covering the seeds is used as a condiment.

Bixa meal, which remains after extraction of the pigment from the seed, is a useful additive to poultry feed and can replace 30% of the maize in the food. However, the seed embryo contains a poisonous alkaloid, so it is not wise to use the residues from the extraction process directly.

Apiculture:  The flowers are a source of nectar for honey.

It is said that fire can be started by the friction of 2 pieces of the soft wood.

Fibre:  Fibre for cordage has been obtained from the bark of B. orellana.

Timber:  The sapwood is whitish and the heartwood light brown or yellowish. The wood is soft, light weight (specific gravity 0.4), porous, weak and not durable.

Tannin or dyestuff:  The extract from the pigment coating the seeds yields a harmless, non-carcinogenic dye, used as colouring for food, especially dairy products. This dye was also used by Amerindians as war paint and was used in dying wool, cotton and silk, but the colour rapidly fades when exposed to light and air. The dye obtained from the seed is used in manufacturing cosmetics.

Medicine:  Leaves are applied to the head and to sprains to relieve aches; a decoction is gargled as a cure for mouth and throat infections. Leaves may also be used in baths to relieve colic or to get rid of worms in children. A root decoction is taken orally to control asthma. A macerated seed decoction is taken orally for relief of fever, and the pulp surrounding the seed is made into an astringent drink used to treat dysentery and kidney infection. Oliguria and jaundice are treated using root teas; infusions of root in water and rum are used to treat venereal diseases. The dye is used as an antidote for prussic acid poisoning caused by poorly treated Manihot esculenta. Seeds are used as expectorant.

Gum or resin:  Bark from the branches of the trees yields a water-soluble gum that is similar to gum arabic.

Intercropping:  B. orellana has been successfully cultivated with young citrus groves.

Essential oil:  Seeds contain a characteristic pleasant-smelling oil.