Bixa orellana (Lipstick Plant)

  • TropPlant Accession Number (TPAN): 0001
  • Botanical Name: Bixa Orellana
  • Common Name: Lipstick Plant, Achiote, Annatto, Arnotto
  • Cultivar: N/A
  • Family: Bixaceae
Bixa orellana 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Native To: Tropical South America

Landscaping Information

  • Plant Type: Treelet, Shrub
  • Texture: Dense
  • Form: Round-Headed
  • Height (on average, in landscape use): 4' - 30'
  • Height to Spread Ratio: 2:1
  • Growth Rate: Medium
  • Landscape Values: Accent, Specimen, Background, (a large Hedge even)
  • Outstanding Quality: Seasonal Color, Fruit
Bixa orellana as a small tree
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Botanical Descriptions

  • Flowers: No Fragrance, short-lived, 1"-3" wide cream-pink flowers. Many pink-purple filaments. 
Bixa orellana flower 
Photo and hand by Matthew Gaston

  • Fruits: Fresh: Bright Red, Dry: Rust Red; Ovoid prickly or bristly fruit with several scarlet seeds. Seeds covered in a waxy aril used in cooking and for dyes.
Bixa orellana developing fruits on the inflorescence 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Bixa orellana fruits with red seeds 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Bixa orellana fruit opened to expose the seeds, which are covered in a scarlet, waxy aril
Photo by Matthew Gaston
Bixa orellana leaves with developing fruits
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Foliage Color: Young/immature: Bronze to Yellow Green. Mature: Dark Green.
  • Foliage Tip: Acute
  • Foliage Base: Truncate to Cordate
  • Petiole: Swollen at both ends
  • Stipules: N/A
  • Margins: Undulate
  • Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
  • Leaf Shape: Ovate
  • Leaf Type: Simple
  • Leaf Texture: waxy, firm, smooth
  • Leaf Special Notes: midrib and larger veins contain notes of red and pink, adding more color to the rich, deep green leaf.
Bixa orellana leaves
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Bark and Trunk: Smooth, gray-umber. 
Bixa orellana bark 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Horticultural Information

  • Light Preference: Full Sun.
  • Light Tolerances:Semi-Sun
  • Soil Preferences: Well-Drained
  • Tolerances: Drought
  • Water Requirements: medium moisture soil, enjoys watering when in a particularly dry area, but can tolerate drought. does not like being waterlogged; ergo, well drained-soil is necessary.
  • Notes on Maintenance:  Fairly easy to grow provided a sunny, well drained location free of salt spray or salt water.  
  • Propagation: Seed, Cutting, Layer
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 11a
  • Weed Risk Assessment Score (WRA): 1, Low Risk
Bixa Orellana by Martius, C., Eichler, A.G., Urban, I., in Flora Brasiliensis, vol. 13(1): fasicle 55, t. 87 (1871)

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