Capsicum annuum L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 188 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Mexico to Guatemala. It is an annual or biennial and grows primarily in the wet tropical biome. It is used to treat unspecified medicinal disorders, as a poison, a medicine and a food additive, has environmental uses and social uses and for food.

Descriptions

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Ecology
Alt. 5 - 1700 m.
Morphology General Habit
Herb or shrub.
Distribution
Native from Colombia.
Conservation
Not Evaluated.
[UPB]

Solanaceae, H. heine. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Morphology General Habit
Stout herb 2-5 ft. high, much branched, angular, glabrous stems
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers white or greenish
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruits red
Note
Cultivated.
[FWTA]

Distribution
Biogeografic region: Amazonia, Andean, Guiana Shield, Caribbean, Orinoquia, Pacific. Elevation range: 5–1700 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Naturalised in Colombia. Colombian departments: Amazonas, Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Bolívar, Boyacá, Cauca, Cesar, Chocó, Cundinamarca, Guainía, Huila, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Quindío, Risaralda, Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Vaupés, Vichada.
Habit
Herb, Shrub, Subshrub.
Conservation
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): LC.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, savanna, shrubland, native grassland, wetlands (inland), artificial - terrestrial.
Vernacular
Ají, Ají pimienta, Ají-pique, Bia (Cubeo), Chiplín, Kutupí, Pimiento
[UPFC]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
This species includes a wide variety of peppers, including chilli peppers used in curries and sweet bell peppers used in salads.

A bewildering variety of colourful and spicy fruits make Capsicum peppers instantly recognisable to both gardeners and chefs. Originally from South and Central America, their popularity continues to grow across the world due to their ease of cultivation, frequently sharp taste and attractive appearance.

There are more than 200 common names in use for this species. The most common include chilli pepper, paprika (sweet varieties); bell pepper, cayenne, halapenos, chitlepin (hot varieties); and Christmas peppers (ornamental). Capsicum annuum should not be confused with 'black pepper', Piper nigrum, which belongs to a distantly related plant family (Piperaceae).

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Wild ancestors of Capsicum annuum evolved in Bolivia and southern Brazil, probably long before human habitation. Archaeological research estimates that they were first domesticated at least 6,100 years ago.

Numerous varieties were known to the Aztecs in Mexico before the Spanish arrived. Christopher Columbus brought seeds to Europe, and Capsicum annuum began to be planted extensively in Portuguese colonies in Africa, India and Asia. It is now grown around the world, both commercially and domestically.

Description

An attractive, upright shrub usually less than 1 m tall, with small, white, pendent flowers and elongated, yellow, orange or red fruits (berries). It can be distinguished from other types of domesticated peppers by flowers that are solitary rather than in groups, and filaments (thread-like stalks supporting the anther) that are not purple.

Capsicum annuum can be difficult to separate from the cultivated C. chinense (the hottest pepper) and C. frutescens (Tabasco pepper) and their morphological features can overlap. These three species share the same ancestral gene pool and are sometimes called the 'annuum-chinense-frutescens complex'.

The varieties and cultivars of Capsicum annuum are classified on the basis of their fruit shapes. There are so many different kinds (several thousand) that nobody knows exactly how many there are. More and more local variants are appearing in cultivation across the world because existing varieties cross-pollinate easily.

Uses - fruits

Capsicum fruits have been part of the human diet for at least 10,000 years. The fruits of non-pungent (sweet) varieties are eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. They are rich sources of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin A.

Pungent types, including chillies, are used as a condiment or spice for seasoning. The dried fruits are ground to a powder (paprika) and used as an ingredient in curry powder. The pungency is mainly due to the presence of chemical compounds called capsaicinoids, which deter most mammals from eating the fruit. Birds, however, will eat them without harm (and indeed help to disperse the seeds).

Uses - pepper extracts

Pepper extracts are used to flavour ginger beer, and are used in pharmaceutical products for treating conditions such as athlete's foot and arthritis. Maya Indians used pepper spray as a weapon against their enemies, and today some police forces around the world use it to control unruly individuals.

Uses - decorations

Ornamental varieties of Capsicum annuum (the fruits of which are also edible) are grown primarily for the decorative value of their fruit, often displaying fruits of four or five colours simultaneously on one plant. The popular 'Christmas peppers' were originally available at Christmas time and had green and red fruits.

How hot is a 'chilli'?

In 1912, a pharmacist named Scoville developed an index for measuring the pungency of peppers. Scoville Heat Units (SHU) are still used today and measure by how much a chilli extract has to be diluted in sugar syrup before its heat becomes undetectable to a panel of expert tasters.

Sweet (or bell) peppers rank at 0 SHU, while New Mexico green chillies are mildly pungent at 1,500 SHU. The 'hottest' of the world's chillies exceed 80,000 SHU, but even they are relatively mild compared to the hottest of them all (the 'infinity chilli'), which registers over 1,000,000 SHU. Imagine that next time you have a curry!

Millennium Seed Bank - Saving seeds

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

There are two collections of Capsicum annuum seeds stored in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

This species at Kew

Specimens of the fruits and seeds of Capsicum annuum are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building and are available to researchers by appointment.

Distribution
Bolivia, Brazil
Ecology
Tropical deciduous forest. Widely cultivated.
Conservation
Widespread; Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

Juice (of the fruit) can cause dermatitis; avoid contact with eyes.

[KSP]

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
Nativa y cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 5 - 1700 m.; Amazonia, Andes, Guayana y Serranía de La Macarena, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Orinoquia, Pacífico, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba, subarbusto, arbusto
Conservation
Preocupación Menor
[CPLC]

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Herb or shrub, up to c. 1 m tall, almost glabrous
Morphology Leaves
Leaves petiolate; blades ovate to lanceolate, cuneate at the base, acute at the apex, with entire margins
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers solitary or in few-flowered clusters
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 2–3 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla white, c. 1 cm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Berry mostly red but may be orange, yellow, green or black, very variable in shape and size.
Distribution
Cultivated in N1, S2, S3 and surely also elsewhere
Vernacular
Filfil-guduud (Somali).
Note
Numerous cultivars of “peppers” exist, with everything from sweet to extremely pungent fruits. Native to Mexico and South America, but now widely cultivated and naturalised.
[FSOM]

Solanaceae, Jennifer M Edmonds. Oliganthes, Melongena & Monodolichopus, Maria S. Vorontsova & Sandra Knapp. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2012

Type
Type: Herb. Clifford: 59, Capsicum 1 (BM!, lecto.) designated by D’Arcy in Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 60: 591 (1974). [See Jarvis, Order out of Chaos: 382 (2007) for a discussion of the controversy surrounding the selection of this sheet as the lectotype]
Morphology General Habit
Shrubby herb or small shrub, to 1.5 m, often short-lived.
Morphology Stem
Stems ridged, angular, woody, erect, much-branched, pilose when young, glabrescent
Morphology Leaves
Leaves membranaceous, lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 2.2–8(–12) × 1–4(–8.5) cm, bases cuneate and decurrent, margins entire, apices acuminate, surfaces sparsely pilose, denser on margins, veins and midribs, with pilose domatia on lower surfaces, hairs as stems; petioles 1–3.5(–5.5) cm, pilose
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences usually 1-flowered in branch or leaf axil, rarely 2-flowered; flowers white to greenish- or bluish-white; pedicels erect or recurved and slender thickening apically in flower, 7–20 mm long, recurved in fruit when thickened beneath calyx and often woody, 1.2–3.5 cm long, glabrescent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx shallowly cupulate to campanulate, 2–3.2 × (1.6)2–5.5 mm apically, with 5 narrowly triangular lobes 0.5–1.3 × 0.3–0.6 mm, persistent but only slightly enlarged in fruit, sparsely pilose with spreading hairs to glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla stellate, 5–9 × ± 11 mm diameter with short tube ± 1.2 mm long; lobes ovate to triangular, 2.8–5 × 2–4 mm, spreading or reflexed after anthesis, shortly puberulous on margins and lobe apices otherwise glabrescent externally, glabrous internally
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens with filaments 1–2 mm long, glabrous; anthers blue to purple, oblong, 1.5–2(–2.5) × 0.6–1(–1.4) mm, basifixed, exserted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary brown, ovoid, 1.5–2 × 1.1–1.6 mm, glabrous; disc 1.5 mm broad and 0.5 mm high; style filiform, 3–5.5 mm long, glabrous, exserted ± 1 mm, straight or geniculate; stigma 0.2–0.5 mm diameter
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit usually pendulous, green, yellow, orange, red or blackish, globose, ovoid to narrowly conical or elongated berries, (1.1–)2.4–5.2(–15) × (1.2–)1.5–2.2(–4.5) cm, smooth, often apically acute and sometimes depressed, subtended by broadly cupulate calyx 2–4 × 7–15 mm, which often semi-reflexed away from berry base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds yellow to yellowish-orange, orbicular to discoidal, 3.2–5.5 × 3.2–4.2 mm, with thickened margin, foveolate/reticulate
Figures
Fig 12/7 & 8, p 60
[FTEA]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/100895534/172969027

Conservation
LC - least concern
[IUCN]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
ají, ají ajuja, ají amarillo, ají amarillo de culebra, ají bejuco, ají blanco, ají botón, ají bravo, ají camarón, ají carcarón de tiro, ají cascarón, ají catuto, ají cerbatano, aji charapilla, aji cheroso, ají chiche de perro, ají chichegato, ají chicheperro, ají chichi de perro, ají chichiperro, ají chicle, ají chiquito, ají chirca, ají chirel, ají chirere, ají chivatillo, ají chivato, ají churere, ají clavito, ají colorado, ají culebra, ají de agua, ají de ajoja, ají de babilla, ají de bejuco, ají de blanco, ají de blancos, ají de castaño, ají de chuzo, ají de colmillo de culebra, ají de coro, ají de curripaco, ají de garza, ají de guraco pesado, ají de gusano, ají de mesa, ají de mico nocturno, ají de monte, ají de pajarito, ají de pájaro, ají de perro, ají de pescado, ají de salón, ají de sapo grande, ají de venado, ají de yubiye, ají de yulo, ají de zorro, ají del blanco, ají diablito, ají diente, ají dulce, ají dulce pimentón, ají dulce redondo, ají fino, ají frío, ají grande, ají grillo, ají guaguau, ají gusanito, ají gusano, ají gusano dulce, ají huevo de araguana, ají huevo de arapiana, ají largo, ají largo de blanco, ají macusare amarillo, ají malagueta, ají medicinal, ají miracielo, ají mirapalcielo, ají moradito, ají negro, ají negro blanco, ají ojito de pescado, ají ojo de charapa, ají ojo de pescado, ají ojo de sapo, ají paja, ají pajarita, ají pajarito, ají pálido, ají pecas, ají pequeñito, ají pequeño, ají perfumado, ají pescado, ají picante, ají pico de pájaro, ají pimentón, ají pimentón largo, ají pimienta, ají pimiento, ají pique, aji piquiucho, ají pucado, ají puro, ají quiñapira, ají ral, ají redondo, ají rojo, ají suave, ají tablachito, ají topito, ají tripa de pescado, ají trompito, ají trompo, ají verde, areñe, cabeza de grillo, chiche, chicheperro, chichí de perro, chimbote, chirca, chirere, cimarrón, conguito, curripaati, dedo de sapo, diente chucha, diente de chucha, diente de tigre, duao, huevo de sardina, ibaprehumo, jibiray, largo, machucara, malagueta, murupí, nuche de perro, ojito de Lucía, ojito de pescado, ojo de acarabazu, ojo de caimán, ojo de cambico, ojo de carachama, ojo de charapa, ojo de pescado, pico de piapoco, pimentón, pimentón dulce, pimiento, pimientón, pipí de perro, pipicha, pique, piquiucho, redondeo, tomate, trompito
[UNAL]

Uses

Use Gene Sources
Crop wild relatives which may possess beneficial traits of value in breeding programmes (State of the World's Plants 2016).
Use Food
Food (Cuervo 1999).
Use Food Food Additives
Used as a condiment (Pérez Arbeláez 1996).
Use Materials Gums Resins
Used in gums, resins and oleoresins (Rugeles Chacón et al. 2012).
Use Materials Unspecified Materials Chemicals
Materials (State of the World's Plants 2016).
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (Instituto Humboldt 2014).
[UPB]

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Poisons.
Use Social
Social uses.
[UPFC]

Use
Food, flavouring, ornamental.
[KSP]

Use
Cultivated as a vegetable and condiment
[FSOM]
English
Bird Chilli, Chilli, Chilli pepper, Chillies, Hot Pepper, Japanese Hot Pepper, Long Peppers, Pepper, Sweet Pepper
Spanish
Pimiento, chiplín, pimentón, ají-pique, ají, kutupí, ají pimienta.

Sources

  • 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
  • Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

    • ColPlantA 2021. Published on the Internet at http://colplanta.org
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Flora of Somalia

    • Flora of Somalia
    • 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
  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    • Flora of West Tropical 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/
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Living Collection https://www.kew.org/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/