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Pimenta dioica (allspice)

Said to combine the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, allspice is best known as an ingredient in cakes and baking, but is also used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes and drinks.
Pimenta dioica

Pimenta dioica flowers in a Tongan garden (Photo: Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC by 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.

Common name: 

allspice, pimenta, pimento, Jamaica pepper

Conservation status: 

Widely cultivated in its natural range; not threatened.


Hillsides in Central America and the Caribbean.

Key Uses: 

Food flavouring and preservative, perfume, traditional medicine.

Known hazards: 

May cause allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals.


Genus: Pimenta

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.


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