Bixa orellana [Lipstick Tree, Annatto, Achiote] is a shrub or small tree originating from the tropical region of the Americas. It is cultivated there and in Southeast Asia, where it was introduced by the Spanish in the 17th century. It is best known as the source of the natural pigment annatto, produced from the fruit. The plant bears pink flowers and bright red spiny fruits which contain red seeds. The fruits dry and harden to brown capsules.
The inedible fruit is harvested for its seeds, which contain annatto, also called bixin. It can be extracted by stirring the seeds in water. Bixa orellana is growing in popularity as a natural alternative to synthetic food coloring compounds.
Bixa orellana has glossy, ovate leaves are evergreen with reddish veins; they have a round, heart-shaped base and a pointed tip.
Photos: HortPark, Singapore 20120526