Annatto, Achiote, Lipstick tree

Bixa or Annatto is well known for its seeds which are used as a spice and food coloring,  often in the world famous Jamaican beef patties. It is a small tree which bears pink, white, or purple-tinted flowers. The name Bixa orellana is derived from Francisco de Orellana, a 16th century Spanish explorer.

Bixa is also known as “lipstick tree” because Central and South American Natives used the seeds to color their bodies and lips. Red coloring on outside of seeds easily dyes bare skin. Several washings with soap are required before color can be removed.

Plant Facts:

Common Name:   Annatto, Lipstick tree

Botanical Name:   Bixa orellana

Family:  Bixaceae

Plant Type:  Evergreen tree

Origin: Tropical Americas

Zones: 10B – 11

Height:  to 30′, 10 to 15′ wide

Rate of Growth: Medium

Salt Tolerance: None

Soil Requirements:  Does best in rich, moist, well-drained soil — although can be grown in almost any type soil.


Water Requirements: Drought tolerant

Nutritional Requirements: Feed with composted cow manure

Light Requirements: Full sun

Form:  Intricately branched

Leaves:  Heart shaped to 6″ long

Flowers: White, pink or purple tinged, rose shaped, late summer and autumn

Fruits: Ovoid bristly red seed capsules

Pests or diseases:  Leaf spot and powdery mildew. Give protection from wind to protect leaves from damage.

Uses:  Seeds used as a spice and food coloring. Has a weak perfumed scent.

Bad Habits: Handling seeds leaves a persistent reddish-orange color on bare skin.

Cost:  $ — Very reasonable

Propagation:  Seeds or cuttings

Source ( “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”): THE AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY A-Z ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN PLANTS