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Bixa orellana



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Evergreen shrub from tropical America with attractive pink or white flowers. The prickly fruits contain 50 or so seeds with a scarlet, waxy covering that yields a bright yellow dye.

Source of commercial annatto. Originates in the lowlands of S.America. Stands in Guiana along rivers , but maybe v. long cultivated. Ecuadorian Siona Indians cultivate 3 forms of B .orellana. (Outside America, dried capsicum had similar roles). Probably originally domesticated for body paint, against evil, for war, and against insects. Good for lipstick etc. Use for Cloth, Dyes may have arisen later. It is also used as a medicine against epilepsy, fever and VD, and as a chocolate additive in Mexico. Smith et al. (1992) state that, like sweet potato, it was in the Pacific area before the Europeans: Marquesas inhabitants knew about it when first missionaries arrived. Maybe Portuguese took It to eg Timor and Moluccas and thence. Or Peruvian or Polynesian travellers may have dispersed it. However, Burkill (1935) stated that the Spanish took it to the Philippines, and thence it went to the Moluccas. Hindus use it as a dye in their Holi festical, but this use is farily recent; in 1808 its use was said to be 'rapidly spreading over Bengal'. Its use in Europe and USA was replaced by Red Dye no. 3 until that was implicated in cancer and banned. Bixin, identified in 1825, is used to color butter, cheese, chocolate, and still not synthesised.

Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Bengali:


Common Names in Bulgarian:

Achiote, Ačiote, Ачиоте

Common Names in Catalan, Valencian:


Common Names in Chinese:

Hong Mu, yan Zhi Mu, yan Zhi Shu, 红木

Common Names in Czech:

Annata, Oreláník barvířský

Common Names in Danish:

Annatobusken, Orleantræ, Smørfarvetræ

Common Names in Dutch:

Achiote, Anatto, Annotto, Orleaan, Orleaanboom, Rocou

Common Names in English:

Annato, Achiote, Anatto, Anatto Tree, Annatto, Annatto Plant, Annatto Seeds, Annatto Tree, Arnatto, Arnotto Dye Plant, Lipstick Plant, Lipstick Tree, Lipsticktree, Roucou, Urucum

Common Names in Estonian:

Annatopõõsa, Värvibiksa, Värvibiksa

Common Names in Finnish:

Annaatto, Annatto

Common Names in French:

Achiote, Annato, Atole, Rocou, Rocouyer, Roucou, Roucou (West Indies), Roucouyer

Common Names in Georgian:

ორლეანის ხე

Common Names in German:

Anatto, Anattosamen, Anattostrauch, Annatto, Annattosamen, Annattostrauch, Orleansamen, Orleansbaum, Orleansstrauch, Orleanstrauch, Orleanstrauch Orlean-Strauch

Common Names in Guaraní:


Common Names in Haitian, Haitian Creole:

Pye roukou

Common Names in Hindi:

Induriya, Lathwa, Latkan, Latkana, Sindhuri, इनदुिनया, लालकन

Common Names in Hungarian:

Bjoul, Orleánfa, Orleánfa, Ruku

Common Names in Indonesian:


Common Names in Italian:

Annatto, Anotto

Common Names in Japanese:

Achiote, anatoo, anatto, Be-Ni-No-Ki, Beni No Ki, Beninoki, ベニノキ

Common Names in Kazakh:


Common Names in Khmer:

Châm´ Puu, Châm´ Puu Chrâluëk´

Common Names in Korean:

A Chi O Te, a Na To, A-Ci-O-Te, A-Na-To, Achiote, Anato, bik Sa Sok, 아나토, 아치오테

Common Names in Lao:

Dok Kham, Sa Ti

Common Names in Laotian:

Kh´am, Sômz Phuu, Satii

Common Names in Lithuanian:

Dažinė urlija

Common Names in Malay:

Jarak Belanda, Kesumba (Indonesia), Kesumba Kling (Indonesia), Kunyit Jawa

Common Names in Malayalam:


Common Names in Marathi:


Common Names in Nepalese:

Sindur, sindure

Common Names in Polish:

Arnota, Arnota właściwa

Common Names in Portuguese:

Açafroa, Açafroa Do Brasil, Açafroeira-Da-Terra, Açafroa-Do-Brasil, Acafroeira Da Terra (Brazil), Anato, Annato (Brazil), Colorau, Urucú, Urucú (Brazil), Urucú Bravo (Brazil), Urucú Da Mata (Brazil), Urucú-Bravo, Urucú, Urucu (planta), Urucum, Urucum (Brazil)

Common Names in Quechua:


Common Names in Russian:

Achiote, annato, biksa, Biksa Orel´ina, Pomadnoe Derevo, Аннато, Бикса, Помадное дерево

Common Names in Serbian:

- Orlean-Drvo

Common Names in Slovak:


Common Names in Spanish:

Achihuite (Colombia), Achiote, Achiote Caspi, Achiotl (Nahuatl), Achote, Achote (Panama), Annato, Bija, Bija (Puerto Rico), Bijol, Chacuanguarica (Puerto Rico), Onoto (Venezuela), Pumacua (Puerto Rico), Roucou

Common Names in Sundanese:


Common Names in Swedish:


Common Names in Tagalog:

Achuete, Achwete, Asuete, Atsuete, Echuete

Common Names in Tamil:

Cappirā, Jabra, kongaram, Kŏṅkāram, Sappira, கொங்காரம், சப்பிரா

Common Names in Thai:

Kam Sêt, Kam Saed, Kam Tai, kham Faet, kham Ngae, kham Ngo, kham Saet (Bangkok), kham Thai, Sati, คำแสด

Common Names in Turkish:


Common Names in Ukrainian:


Common Names in unspecified:

Lipsticktree, Roucou

Common Names in Vietnamese:

Diêù Nhuôm, Ht Iu Màu, Điều nhuộm

Common Names in Visayan:



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Family Bixaceae

Shrubs or small trees . Young branches and leaves with peltate scales . Leaves alternate; stipules small, sheathing bud, fugacious ; petiole swollen at base and apex; leaf blade simple , palmately veined. Inflorescence a terminal panicle. Flowers bisexual , actinomorphic . Sepals 5, free , imbricate, with basal, abaxial glands , fugacious. Petals 5, imbricate, large and conspicuous . Stamens many, free or slightly united at base; anthers oblong , with 2 inverted , U-shaped thecae, dehiscing by short, apical slits on bend . Ovary superior, 1-loculed; ovules many on 2 parietal placentas; style slender; stigmas 2-lobed. Fruit a capsule, loculicidally 2-valved, usually spiny . Seeds many; testa red, slightly fleshy ; embryo large; cotyledons broad, incurved at apex; endosperm copious .

One genus and five species: native to tropical America; one species widely cultivated in tropical regions , including China.

Molecular data suggest that the genus Diegodendron Capuron, endemic to Madagascar, is related to Bixa and could be included within the Bixaceae.[1]

Genus Bixa

Morphological characters and geographic distribution are the same as those of the family .[2]

Physical Description

Species Bixa orellana

Shrubs or small trees , evergreen , 2-5(-10) m tall. Branches brown, densely red-brown glandular hairy . Petiole erect , 2.5-5 cm, glabrous ; leaf blade abaxially pale green, with resinlike gland dots, adaxially deep green, cordate-ovate or triangular-ovate, (5-) 10-25 × (3.3-) 5-13(-16.5) cm, palmately 5-veined, glabrous, base rounded or subtruncate, sometimes slightly cordate, margin entire, apex acuminate. Panicles robust , often flat-topped, 5-10 cm, densely red-brown scaly and glandular hairy; bracts caducous , leaving scalelike scars . Flowers 4-5 cm in diam.; pedicel 4-12 mm. Sepals obovate , 8-10 × ca. 7 mm, densely red-brown scaly, with glands at base. Petals bright pink, mauve , or white with pale red veins, obovate, (1-) 1.5-3 × 0.8-2 cm. Stamens many; anthers yellow, apically dehiscent . Capsule subglobose or ovoid , slightly laterally compressed , (1.4-) 2-4.5 cm, usually densely purple-brown spiny , rarely smooth ; spines 1-2 cm. Seeds numerous , red-brown, obovoid-angular, 4-5 mm. [source]

Habit: Tree , Shrub

Flowers: Bloom Period: July, August, September, October, November. • Flower Color: pale pink, pink


Size: 6-8' tall.


Cultivated, tolerant of poor soils but intolerant of shade (Ref. 52416).


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Duration: Perennial


Culture: Space 10-12' apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 6.6 • Maximum pH: 7.8

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full Sun .

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 11. (map)


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Orellana Orellana • Orellana orellana (L.) Kuntze


Publishing author : L. Publication : Sp. Pl. 1: 512 1753 [1 May 1753]

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Bixa

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 1 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

B. orellana (Annato)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 17, 2007:



  1. Qiner Yang & Michael G. Gilbert "Bixaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 71. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. "Bixa". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 71. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-21