Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Bixa orellana L., Sp. Pl. 512. 1753; Hook. f. & Thomson in Fl. Brit. India 1: 190. 1872.

Engl.: Anatto-tree, Arnatto; Hindi: Sinduriva; Kan.: Rangamala; Mar.: Sendri; Tam.: Japhara

Shrubs or small trees, 2 - 9 m tall; young branches densely dark scaly; wood pale yellow, soft. Leaves ovate, subcordate or truncate at base, long-acuminate at apex, 7 - 24 x 4 - 16 cm, at first scaly beneath, afterwards glabrous, glossy above, densely red-dotted; lateral nerves 4 - 5 pairs; petioles slender, 4 - 10 cm long; stipules 5 - 6 mm long. Corymbs or panicles 8 - 50-flowered, scaly; pedicels 7 - 10 mm long; flowers 4 - 5 cm in diam. Sepals concave, broadly ovate to suborbicular, purple, scaly. Petals 5 - 7, unequal, obovate, rounded at apex, 2 - 3 x 1 - 2 cm, light red, pink to white. Filaments slender, yellow at base, red at apex; anthers purple. Ovary densely covered with thick red bristles; styles thickened upwards, 12 - 15 mm long, red. Capsules globose or broadly ovoid, nearly truncate at base, abruptly short-acuminate at apex or elongate-ovate with narrowly long-acuminate apex, 2 - 4 x 2 - 4.5 cm, with dense long stiff but soft and flexible bristles, green when young, brownish red with age. Seeds obpyramidal, ca 5 mm long, 4 - 5 mm wide, orange-red:

Fl. & Fr. Aug. - Feb.

Distrib. India: Cultivated as an ornamental, sometimes run wild, below 2000 m. Most parts of India.

Native of tropical America, now widespread in tropics.

Notes. Seeds provide a red dye used for colouring foodstufts, butter, cheese, chocolate, cosmetics, oils, varnishes, soap and in ancient times wool and silk. Due to availability of synthetic dyes this plant is now not used commercially. The leaves and roots are used as a digestive tonic in S.E. Asia and S. America.

It occurs in two forms, one with white flowers and green capsules and another with pink flowers and red capsules.

The chromosome number reported by Mukherjee (in Bull. Bot. Soc. Bengal 29: 25. 1975) 15 20 = 14.


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