Distribution of the important species of Capsicum are given in Table 1.2 (Hunziker, 1956; Eshbaugh, 1977; Pickersgill, 1984).

The detailed taxonomic and other related biological, agricultural and geographical aspects of the major species of genus Capsicum are described as follows:

Capsicum, annuum. Linn, (purple, red, yellow chilli, pepper)

A suffrutescent or herbaceous, short-lived perennial (cultivated as annual) up to 1 m in height, cultivated throughout India from sea level up to an altitude of 2,100m. Leaves oblong, glabrous; flowers solitary, rarely in pairs, pure white to bluish white, very rarely violet; berries green, maturing into yellow, orange to red shading into brown or purple, pendent, rarely erect, extremely variable in size (up to 20 cm long and 10 cm in diameter), shape and pungency, sometimes lobed, seeds white or cream to yellow, thin, almost circular, having long placental connections (The Wealth of India, 1992).

Red pepper is native to tropical America, most probably of Brazil. The crop is cultivated for its fruit throughout the plains of India and in the lower hills of Kashmir and the Chenub valley. When grown on the hills, it is said to be very pungent. There are several varieties differing chiefly in length, shape and colour of the fruit. The fruits, according to varieties, may be round or oblong, lipid or acute, smooth or rugose, red, white yellow or variegated (De, 1994).

A light, well-manured soil is best for all kinds. Crops which are raised during the rainy season should preferably be sown in well drained heavy soil. The crop prefers a limy soil. The seedlings may be planted at least 10cms apart, when they attain a length of 7.5 cms. A subsequent replenishing of the soil, light earth and a good supply of water are the necessary requirements for the crop. Ammonium sulphate as a fertilizer is recommended for a heavy yield of the crop (De, 1994).

This type of fruit is used for the preparation of arrow poisons of the tribal people Dyaks of Borneo and Youri Tabocas of Brazil. It is useful in seasickness, typhoid fever and also in chronic fever (De, 1994).

Table 1.2 Synopsis of the genus Capsicum (Solanaceae)"

Capsicum annuum L.

baccatum L.

buforum Hunz.

campylopodium Sendt.

cardenasii Heiser & Smith chacoen.se Hunz.

chinense Jacq.

coccineum (Rusby) Hunz.

cornutum (Hiern) Hunz.

dimorphum (Miers) O.K.

dusenii Bitter eximium Hunz.

glapagoensis Hunz.

geminifolium (Dammer) Hunz.

hookerianum (Miers) O.K.

lanceolatum (Greenm.) Morton & Standley leptopodum (Dunal) O.K.

minutiflorum (Rusby) Hunz.

mirabile Mart ex. Sendt.

parvifolium Sendt.

praetermissum Heiser & Smith pubescens Ruiz & Pav.

scolnikianum Hunz.

schottianum Sendt.

tovarii Eshbaugh, Smith & Nickrent villosum Sendt.

New world distribution

Colombia north to southern United States Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru Brazil

South Brazil Bolivia

Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay Latin and South America Bolivia, Peru South Brazil Colombia Southeast Brazil Argentina, Bolivia Ecuador

Colombia, Ecuador Ecuador

Mexico, Guatemala Brazil

Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay South Brazil

Colombia, Northeast Brazil, Venezuela South Brazil

Latin and South America Peru

Argentina, South Brazil, Southeast Paraguay Peru

South Brazil

Noce a The following Capsicum species have been omicted: C. anomalum, C. breviflorum and C. ciliatum following the earlier suggestion of Eshbaugh (1983). Also, C. ftexuosmn Sendt. has been treaced as a variety of C. schottianum by Hunziker. The creacment of C. frutescens L. remains to be resolved and some may choose to retain it as a distinct species oi Capsicum while ochers include it in C. chinense, as suggested earlier. Finally, C. eximium var. tomentosum Eshbaugh & Smith is so distinctive chat it may deserve species status.

Capsicum frutescens Linn, (spur pepper, goat pepper and chillies, bird chilli, red pepper)

A shrubby, hardy, finely pubescent perennial up to 2 m height, occurring wild or semi-wild in the tropics. Stems angular, leaves broadly ovate, usually wrinkled, or less pubescent; flowers greenish white, two or more at node, rarely erect, constriction between the base of the calyx and pedicel absent; fruits ovoid, obtuse or oblong, acuminate, immature and green, sometimes with dark pigmentation, nature red, rarely orange, erect, soft-fleshed, calyx embracing the base of fruit; seeds cream to yellow (The Wealth of India, 1992).

This herb originally introduced from South America is now cultivated throughout India. Of the cultivated species in India this is perhaps the most common and the largest. It is grown in cold weather in light sandy soil in most parts of the country, especially in Bengal, Orissa and Madras. The fruit when dry is bright red. These fruits are collected in large quantities, dried in the sun, and made ready for marketing.

Chillies are often used for flavouring pickles. By pouring vinegar upon the fresh fruits, all the essential qualities are preserved owing to their oleaginous properties. Hence, chilli-vineger is famous as a flavouring substance. In India a sort of chilli extract is produced by country folk which in colour and consistency is almost like treacle. The dried powder of this chilli is often sold in the market for ready use. When used as a spice, the preparation is generally mixed with water. Dried chilli powder is sometimes mixed with food by certain people in India. Mundas of Chota Nagpur use mustard oil in which roots of the chilli are mixed to shampoo the extremities to promote circulation of the blood. In Madagascar this is actually given to those suffering from delirium tremens.

Capsicum minimum Roxb. (Bird's eye chilli)

Some workers consider C. frutescens and C. minimum to be synonymous. The original home of this spice is America. The bird's eye chillies are cultivated throughout India but not so extensively as other chillies. The fruits are very small, suberect and almost oblong. These are found in many parts of India, principally in the Southern district, growing in waste places and gardens in an apparently wild state. It is also found abundantly in Java and other parts of the Eastern Archipelago under similar conditions. It is now cultivated to a large extent in the tropical regions of the world.

In India, it is not much used as a spice but in Europe it is used for stews, chops and other food preparations when mixed with vinegar and salt. In West Indies, the fruit is used to treat scarlet fever. It is used medicinally in Madagascar, where it is regarded as a stimulant, a promotive of salivation, a digestive, a laxative and an antiseptic. In Cambodia, it is much praised as a drug that brings about profuse perspiration. In West Indies, a stomachic preparation called "mandram" is still used today by the American Indians. It is prepared by adding cucumbers, shallots, lime juice and wine to mashed pods of bird's eye chillies. This concoction cures stomach aches and aids digestion. Externally it is also used as a counter-irritant to cure inflammation, boils and rheumatism (De, 1992-1994, 2000).

Capsicum pubescens Ruiz & Pav.

Capsicum pubescens forms a distinct genetic lineage. This pepper, first described by Ruiz and Pavon (1794) has not received wide attention from taxonomists until recently (Eshbaugh 1979, 1982). Morphologically, it is unlike any other domesticated pepper, having large purple or white flowers infused with purple and fruits with brown/black seeds. Genetically, it belongs to a tightly knit group of wild taxa including C. eximium (Bolivia and northern Argentina), C. cardenasii (Bolivia) and C. tovarii (Peru). C. pubescens is unique among the domesticates as a mid-elevation Andean species. C. pubescens is still primarily cultivated in South America, although small amounts are grown in Guatemala and southern Mexico, especially Chiapas. This species remains virtually unknown to the rest of the world. A small export market seems to have reached southern California. Two of the major difficulties in transferring this species to other regions include (1) its growth requirements for a cool, freeze-free environment and long-growing season and (2) the fleshy nature of the fruit that leads to rapid deterioration and spoilage.

Capsicum pubescens ranges throughout mid-Andean South America. An analysis of the fruit size of this domesticate indicates that fruits of a smaller size occur in Bolivia, while fruits from accessions outside Bolivia are somewhat larger, suggesting that Bolivian material approaches a more primitive size (Eshbaugh, 1979). Eshbaugh (1979, 1982) has argued that the origin of this domesticate can be found in the "ulupicas", C. eximium and C. cardenasii. Clearly, these two taxa are closely related to each other and to C. pubescens genetically. Natural hybrids between these taxa have been reported and evaluated (Eshbaugh, 1979, 1982). Furthermore, the two species that show the highest isoenzyme correlation with C. pubescens, C. eximium and C. cardenasii, occur primarily in Bolivia (Jensen et al., 1979; Eshbaugh, 1982; McLeod et al., 1983). All three of these taxa form a closely knit breeding unit with the two wild taxa, hybridizing to give fertile, progeny with viable pollen above the 90% level. Crosses between the wild taxa C. eximium and C. cardenasii and the domesticate C. pubescens most often show hybrid pollen viability greater than 55%. These factors lend to the conclusion that domesticated C. pubescens originated in Bolivia and that C. eximium—C. cardenasii is the probable ancestral gene pool. This does not prove that these two taxa are the ancestors of C. pubescens, but of the extant pepper taxa they represent the most logical choice. One perplexing question remains to be investigated and that is the origin of the brown/black seed coat in domesticated C. pubescens, a colour unknown in any of the other pepper species.

Capsicum chinense Jacq.

Examples of this pepper include Habanero and the Scotch Bonnet. It is found mostly in the area from the Amazonian Basin to Bolivia. Probably domesticated in the Bolivian Andes. The popular pepper Habanero in the Yucatan peninsula belongs to this species. The flowers are two or more at each node, corolla is greenish-white, filament purple; best criterion is the fruits' distinct aroma.

Capsicum, haccatum -vox. pendulum

Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum represents another discrete domesticated genetic line. Eshbaugh (1968, 1970) notes that this distinct South American species is characterized by cream coloured flowers with gold/green corolla markings. Typically, the fruits are elongated with cream coloured seeds. The wild gene pool, tightly linked to the domesticate, is designated C. baccatum var. baccatum and is most common in Bolivia, with populations in Peru (rare) and Paraguay, northern Argentina and southern Brazil. This lowland to mid-elevation species is widespread throughout South America, and is particularly adjacent to the Andes. Known as "aji", it is popular not only as a hot spice but also for the subtle bouquet and distinct flavours of its many cuitivars. This pepper is little known outside South America, although it has reached Latin America (Mexico), the Old World (India) and the United States (Hawaii). It is a mystery as to why it has not become much more wide spread, although the dominance of the C. annuum lineage throughout the world at an early date may be responsible.

Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum is widespread throughout lowland tropical regions in South America. The wild form, recognized as C. baccatum var. baccatum, has a much more localized distribution but still ranges from Peru to Brazil. These two taxa have identical flavonoid (Ballard et al., 1970; Eshbaugh, 1975) and isoenzyme profiles (Jensen et al., 1979; McLeod et al., 1979, 1983) and are morphologically indistinguishable except for the overall associated size differences found in the various organ systems of the domesticated taxon (Eshbaugh, 1970). The wild form of C. baccatum exhibits a high crossability index with domesticated C. baccatum var. pendulum, with the progeny typically exhibiting pollen viability in excess of 55% (Eshbaugh, 1970). The greatest centre of diversity of wild C. baccatum var. baccatum is in Bolivia, leading to the conclusion that this is the centre of origin for this domesticate.

The wild gene pool, tightly linked to the domesticate, is designated C. baccatum var. baccatum and is most common in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Pronounced as "bah-KAY-tum".

Flowers are solitary at each node. Pedicels erect or declining at anthesis. Corolla white or greenish-white, with diffuse yellow spots at the base of corolla lobes on either side of mid-vein (flower is white with yellowish spots, anthers are white but turn brownish-yellow with age); corolla lobes usually slightly revolute. Calyx of mature fruit without annular constriction at junction with pedicel (though sometimes irregularly wrinkled), veins prolonged into prominent teeth. Fruit flesh firm. Seeds straw-coloured. Chromosome number 2n = 24, with one pair of acrocentric chromosomes, e.g. Escabeche (Peru).


• Capsicum frutescens var. baccatum Synonym for Capsicum baccatum var. baccatum.

• Capsicum baccatum var. baccatum The wild subspecies (common name: Locoto).

• Capsicum baccatum var. microcarpum (common name: Aji or Peruvian Pepper).

• Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum The cultivated subspecies (common name: Aji).

• Capsicum baccatum var. praetermissum (common name: Ulupica). Pods are spherical, 6 mm in diameter, red in colour and grow on bushy plants. Local name from Itaberai, Brazil is "Pimenta Cumari". Also known as Capsicum praetermissum.

The five major species are morphologically identifiable by the following traits:




Seed colour


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