Congratulations to Colin Brenner for correctly identifying this week’s mystery plant!
Lipstick Tree, Bixa orellana
If you’ve eaten cheddar cheese, you’ve eaten the product of this plant. The seeds of the lipstick tree, or achiote tree, are used to make annatto, a common food coloring. It was once used as body paint, insect repellant, and ink for hundreds of years by people living in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas. Today it is mostly used to add a reddish yellow color to food and you can find annatto in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.
The seeds from the lipstick tree grow within a bright red hairy seed pod on the branches of the lipstick tree. The tree may reach a height of 20 feet if left untrimmed. It is rated for zones 9B-11 and does best in full sun. Although the pink flowers are quite pretty, it’s the seed pods that will really attract attention to your garden. And if you’re a chef, the seeds can easily be processed at home for use in your recipes. The Estates recently lost a large lipstick tree in the severe January freeze but two small ones managed to survive and are behind the large bougainvillea on the Edison property. We also have a few lipstick trees available in our Garden Shoppe.