Pimenta dioica (allspice)
Pimenta dioica flowers in a Tongan garden (Photo: Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC by 3.0)
Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.
allspice, pimenta, pimento, Jamaica pepper
Widely cultivated in its natural range; not threatened.
Hillsides in Central America and the Caribbean.
Food flavouring and preservative, perfume, traditional medicine.
May cause allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals.
About this species
Allspice is derived from the dried, unripe fruits of Pimenta dioica. It is mainly cultivated in, and exported from, Jamaica. It is also known as pimenta or pimento.
The first written record of what is probably allspice occurs in an entry for November 1492 in Christopher Columbus’s journal of his first voyage. It describes how he showed pepper (Piper nigrum), brought from Spain, to indigenous Cubans and asked if they recognised it. The Cubans indicated that it grew locally. However, they were almost certainly referring to Pimenta dioica because true pepper, Piper nigrum, originates from Asia.
Allspice is an evergreen tree almost exclusively grown in the Western Hemisphere, where the species is native and regenerates easily. It has also been grown in South-East Asia but with less commercial success.
Pimenta dioica Lindl.