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Allspice is derived from the dried, unripe fruits of Pimenta dioica. It is mainly cultivated in, and exported from, Jamaica. It is also known as pimenta or pimento.

[FTEA]

Myrtaceae, B. Verdcourt, B.Sc., Ph.D. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2001

Morphology General Habit
Tree to 20 m with young branchlets glandular and pubescent.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves aromatic, oblong-elliptic, elliptic or elliptic-lanceolate, 5.5–17(–22) cm long, 2–6.5(–8) cm wide, rounded to obtusely acuminate at the apex, ± glabrous beneath.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers white, 4-merous, small in many-flowered panicles 5–12 cm long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit subglobose, 5–10 mm diameter, densely covered with convex glands.
Figures
Fig. 1/3–4, p. 4.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Said to combine the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, allspice is best known as an ingredient in cakes and baking, but is also used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes and drinks.

Allspice is derived from the dried, unripe fruits of Pimenta dioica. It is mainly cultivated in, and exported from, Jamaica. It is also known as pimenta or pimento.

The first written record of what is probably allspice occurs in an entry for November 1492 in Christopher Columbus's journal of his first voyage. It describes how he showed pepper (Piper nigrum), brought from Spain, to indigenous Cubans and asked if they recognised it. The Cubans indicated that it grew locally. However, they were almost certainly referring to Pimenta dioica because true pepper, Piper nigrum, originates from Asia.

Allspice is an evergreen tree almost exclusively grown in the Western Hemisphere, where the species is native and regenerates easily. It has also been grown in South-East Asia but with less commercial success.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Pimenta dioica occurs naturally on hillsides of rainforests in Central America and the Caribbean, and has also been reported from Venezuela.

Description

A tropical, evergreen tree, usually 7-10 m tall, but sometimes reaching 20 m, with a smooth, grey bark. Individual trees are functionally dioecious (plants are either male or female) although individual flowers are structurally hermaphrodite (have male and female parts within the same flower). The small, white flowers are held in compound inflorescences and are followed by green berries that turn purple when ripe.

Uses

Allspice is used to flavour a variety of dishes, including meat stews, sausages, pickles, cakes and puddings, and is also added to medicines. It is an important component of pimento dram, a Jamaican alcoholic drink, and liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse. An essential oil is distilled from the berries and leaves and used in soap, perfumes and aromatherapy.

Allspice is also used in traditional medicine to treat digestive disorders and as a remedy for corns, neuralgia and rheumatism. The oil has antioxidant, bactericidal and fungicidal activity, and is a stimulant and purgative. The wood is used for making walking sticks and umbrella handles.

This species at Kew

Pressed and dried specimens of Pimenta dioica are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of one of these, including an image, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

View details and image of specimen

Specimens of the fruits, leaves and oil, and several walking sticks made from the wood of Pimenta dioica are held in the Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building and are available to researchers by appointment.

DNA sequencing at Kew

Sequencing of some standard regions of DNA for Pimenta dioica has taken place as part of the Phylogeny of Tribe Myrteae (Myrtaceae) project currently underway at Kew. DNA was taken from the allspice plant growing in Kew's Palm House for this study.

The project is looking at evolutionary relationships within South American fleshy-fruited Myrtaceae, which are important for studies in the family and in South America and also for a much needed re-classification of the tribe.

Distribution
Venezuela
Ecology
Hillsides in Central America and the Caribbean.
Conservation
Widely cultivated in its natural range; not threatened.
Hazards

May cause allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Naturalizada en Colombia; Alt. 40 m.; Islas Caribeñas.
Morphology General Habit
Árbol
Conservation
No Evaluada

[KSP]
Use
Food flavouring and preservative, perfume, traditional medicine.

Native to:

Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Is., Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua

Introduced into:

Bermuda, Caroline Is., Colombia, El Salvador, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Society Is., Southwest Caribbean, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela

English
Allspice

Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
[Linduca] [542], Minas Gerais K000565031 isotype
Telfair, C. [Cat. no. 3624], Mauritius Eugenia pimenta var. longifolia K001119855
s.coll. [Cat. no. 3624] Eugenia pimenta var. longifolia K001119854
s.coll. [Cat. no. 3624] Eugenia pimenta var. ovalifolia K001119858
s.coll. [Cat. no. 3624] Eugenia pimenta var. ovalifolia K001119856
s.coll. [Cat. no. 3624] Eugenia pimenta var. ovalifolia K001119857

First published in Contr. Gray Herb., n.s., 165: 337 (1947)

Accepted by

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Berendsohn, W.G., Gruber, A.K. & Monterrosa Salomón, J. (2012). Nova Silva Cusatlantica. Árboles natinos e introducidos de El Salvador. Parte 2: Angiospermae - Familias M a P y Pteridophyta Englera 29-2: 1-300.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, R.S. & Celis, M. (eds.) (2016). Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia 1-2: 1-3068. Libro impreso.
  • Davidse, G. & al. (eds.) (2009). Flora Mesoamericana 4(1): 1-855. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F.
  • Evenhuis, N.L. & Eldredge, L.G. (eds.) (2012). Records of the Hawaii biological survey for 2011. Part II: plants Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 113: 1-102.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Govaerts, R., Sobral, N., Ashton, P., Barrie, F., Holst, B.K., Landrum, L.L., Matsumoto, K., Fernanda Mazine, F., Nic Lughadha, E., Proença, C. & al. (2008). World Checklist of Myrtaceae: 1-455. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Linares, J.L. (2003 publ. 2005). Lista comentado de los árboles nativos y cultivados en la República de El Salvador Ceiba; a Scientific and Technical Journal Published by Zamorano 44: 105-268.
  • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Suzuki, M., Taufatofua, P. & Koyama, T. (2007). New records of plants from Tonga Makinoa, n.s., 6: 25-62.
  • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Bown, D. (1995). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbs & their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  • Davidson, A. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Second edition, edited by T. Jaine. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Landrum, L. R. (1986). Campomanesia, Pimenta, Blepharocalyx, Legrandia, Acca, Myrrhinium, and Luma (Myrtaceae). Flora Neotropica: Monograph 45. New York Botanical Garden Press, New York.
  • Purseglove, J. W. et al. (1981). Spices. Tropical Agriculture Series Volume 1, Longman, London.
  • Sulistiarini, D. (1999). Pimenta dioica (L.) Merrill. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13. Spices, eds C. C. de Guzman & J. S. Siemonsma, pp. 176-180. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands.
  • Vaughan, J. G. & Geissler, C. (1997). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants: a Guide to the Fruit, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices of the World. London: Oxford University Press.
  • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2012). Pimenta dioica. Published on the Internet by the Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Berendsohn, W.G., Gruber, A.K. & Monterrosa Salomón, J. (2012). Nova Silva Cusatlantica. Árboles natinos e introducidos de El Salvador. Parte 2: Angiospermae - Familias M a P y Pteridophyta Englera 29-2: 1-300.
  • Evenhuis, N.L. & Eldredge, L.G. (eds.) (2012). Records of the Hawaii biological survey for 2011. Part II: plants Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 113: 1-102.
  • Fosberg, F.R., Sachet, M.-H., Oliver, R. (1979). A geographical checklist of the Micronesian Dicotyledonae Micronesica; Journal of the College of Guam 15: 41-295.
  • Gonzalez, F., Nelson Diaz, J. & Lowry, P. (1995). Flora Illustrada de San Andrés y Providencia: 1-281. Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Colombia.
  • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Dale, Introd. Trees Uganda: 55 (1953).
  • J.P.M. Brenan, Check-lists of the Forest Trees and Shrubs of the British Empire no. 5, part II, Tanganyika Territory p. 378 (1949).
  • R. O. Williams, Useful and Ornamental Plants in Zanzibar and Pemba p. 412 (1949).

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0