Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.

Last updated: 29 Jul 2015

Scientific Name

Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.


Caryophyllus pimenta (L.) Mill., Eugenia micrantha Bertol., Eugenia pimenta (L.) DC., Evanesca crassifolia Raf. [Illegitimate], Myrtus aromatica Poir. [Illegitimate], Myrtus aromatica Salisb. [Illegitimate], Myrtus dioica L., Myrtus pimenta L., Myrtus piperita Sessé & Moc., Pimenta aromatica Kostel. [Illegitimate], Pimenta communis Benth. & Hook.f., Pimenta officinalis Lindl., Pimenta pimenta (L.) H.Karst. [Invalid], Pimenta vulgaris Bello, Pimenta vulgaris Lindl., Pimentus aromatica Raf. [Illegitimate], Pimentus geminata Raf., Pimentus vera Raf. [Illegitimate] [1]

Vernacular Name

English Pimento, Jamaica pepper [2], allspice, bay tree [3]
France Piment des anglais, toute-épice [2]
Spain Pimento [3]
United States of America Allspice [2]

Geographical Distributions

Pimenta dioica exact origin is unknown but it is indigenous to the West Indies (Jamaica, Cuba) and Central America (Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras). It was discovered by the Spanish explorers in the 16th Century and used as a spice in the Caribbean Islands. Most P. dioica is now cultivated or collected from the wild in the region of its natural distribution, most abundantly in Jamaica, and in surrounding areas where it also has been introduced such as in Haiti, Costa Rica, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Brazil. Cultivation of P. dioica has been tried elsewhere in the tropics such as India, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Malaysia (Penang), Singapore and Indonesia (Java, Sumatra), but never became successful. [2]

The natural habitat of P. dioica in Jamaica is limestone forest. It grows from sea level up to 1000 m altitude, but it does best below 300 m altitude. [2]

Botanical Description

P. dioica is a member of the Myrtaceae family. It is a small dioecious evergreen tree that can reach up to 7-10(-15) m tall and profusely branched where the young shoots are four-angled. The bark is smooth and shiny, pale silvery brown and shedding in long strips. The wood is hard, close-grained, heavy, strong, durable and pink. [2]

The leaves are borne in clusters at the end of branches. They are arranged oppositely, simple, thinly coriaceous, punctate with pellucid glands and aromatic when crushed. The petiole is 1-1.5 cm long. The blade is elliptical to elliptical-oblong, measuring 6-15 cm x 3-6 cm, tapered at the base, entire at the margin, rounded at the apex, dark green above, pale green beneath and with pinnate venation. [2]

The inflorescence is axillary, compound, paniculate, with repeatedly branched, measures 5-15 cm long and composed of many-flowered cymes. The flowers are structurally bisexual but functionally male or female, measuring 8-10 mm in diametre, white and aromatic. The pedicel is about 1 cm long, pale green and pubescent. The sepal is tubular, shortly prolonged tube above the ovary, with 4 lobes, rounded, measures 1.5-2 mm long, creamy-white, wide-spreading at anthesis and persistent in fruit. There are 4 petals which are reflexed, rounded, measure 3-4 mm long, white and early fall. The stamens are free which numerous, 80-100 in functionally male trees and 40-50 in functionally female ones. They are about 5 mm long, with white filaments, slender, with cream-coloured anthers, basifixed, bilocular and dehisced by the longitudinal slits. The ovary is inferior, 2-celled and usually with one ovule in each cell. The style is about 5 mm long, white, pubescent and with a yellow stigma. [2]

The fruit is nearly a spherical berry, measuring 4-6 mm in diametre, green when unripe, turns glossy purple to black on ripening and with sweet pulpy flesh. The dried unripe fruits are dark brown and rough. [2]

The seeds are usually 2 and with a spirally coiled embryo. [2]


P. dioica needs optimum average annual rainfall about 1500-1600 mm, but a range of 1000-2500 mm annual rainfall is acceptable, with only a few months with less than 100 mm rain. The mean annual temperatures range is from 18-24°C, with a minimum of 15°C and a maximum of 32°C. P. dioica grows best on well-drained loamy limestone soils with a pH of 6.3-8.0. [2]

Chemical Constituent

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

No documentation.

Traditional Use

No documentation.

Preclinical Data

No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of P. dioica. [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2015 Jul 28]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-156136
  2. Sulistiarini D. Pimenta dioica (L.) Merrill In: de Guzman CC, Siemonsma JS, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13: Spices. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 176-180.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume IV M-Q. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2012. p. 573.