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Piper nigrum (black pepper)

A climber from India, black pepper is the source of hot and pungent peppercorns, one of the most popular spices in the world.

Foliage, Flowers and Fruit of the Pepper Plant, painting by Marianne North

Species information

Scientific name: 

Piper nigrum L.

Common name: 

black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, peppercorn, Madagascar pepper (English); pippali (Sanskrit); kali mirch (Hindi, Urdu); milagu (Tamil)

Conservation status: 

Widely cultivated and not considered to be threatened.


Montane tropical evergreen forest.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicine.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Piper

About this species

Black pepper fruits are the source of one of the world's most widely and frequently used spices. Black, white and green peppercorns all come from Piper nigrum and are popularly used as a hot and pungent spice for flavouring food. Black pepper is also used in traditional medicine, particularly for digestive ailments.

The term peppercorn rent is derived from the high price of black pepper during the Middle Ages in Europe, where it was accepted in lieu of money or as a dowry. Today this term means exactly the opposite - virtually free!


Muldera multinervis Miq.


main info

Courses at Kew

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Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

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