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Bixa orellana (Annatto tree, Lipstick tree, Achiote)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Malvales > Family: Bixaceae

Native to tropical America. Cultivated in southern Africa. Produces seeds that contain an orange-red dye called annatto, which is used for colouring foods such as cheese, butter, smoked fish and salad oils. Trees are cultivated in tropical regions round the world. With the banning of synthetic dyes (because of their carcenogenic properties), natural dyes such as annatto have assumed greater importance. The orange-red colour is caused by a carotenoid pigment called bixin. Annatto is the original dye used for body paint by American Indians.



  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.


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