Bixa orellana is quite spectacular this time of year with its bright red seed pods against dark green heart shaped leaves. Prior to the seed pods ripening this tree has beautiful pinkish lavender-colored blossoms, although short-lived. The tree is native to northern S. America, Central America, and Mexico attaining a height of 15-20′ maintaining branches close to the ground, giving it a shrub-like appearance. The many seeds within the pods are the source of annatto, a natural orange-red dye. The ground seeds are used in many recipes throughout its growing region, especially Caribbean-style black beans and yellow rice. Annatto is also used to give certain cheeses their yellow orange color. Other dairy products that use annatto to give them their yellow color are margarine and butter. The indigenous people of the region where this tree grows used the red dye as face paint and lipstick. The modern cosmetic companies also use annatto in their products to give the desired colors.
Richard Lyons Nursery has this tree currently in stock.