*Capsicum frutescens L., Sp. Pl. 1: 189 (1753)

 T: `Habitat in India'; lectotype: Herb. A. van Royen No. 908.244-150 (L) fide C.B. Heiser & B. Pickersgill, Taxon 18: 280 (1969).

See the Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project pages for further details.


Herb or shrub to 2 m.

Leaves ovate to ovate-lanceolate; lamina upto 10 cm long, 5 cm wide, frequently smaller; petiole usually 1–3 cm long.

Flowers usually several in each leaf axil. Pedicels 10–20 mm long. Calyx 2–3 mm long. Corolla c. 8 mm diam., white or green. Staminal filaments 1 mm long; anthers 1.5–2 mm long, usually blue. Ovary obtusely conical, 1.5–2 mm long; style 3–4 mm long.

Berry erect, narrowly conical to narrowly ellipsoid or fusiform, 10–20 mm long, 3–7 mm diam., red; fruiting pedicel 15–25 mm long. Seeds  3–5 mm long, yellow.

Distribution and ecology

Widespread in North and South America, Pacific Islands and south-eastern Asia where it is often cultivated as condiment. A relatively common weed in eastern coastal Qld, less so in far north-eastern N.S.W.

Common name

Capsicum, Bird pepper, Hot pepper, Tabasco pepper etc.


According to Guzman et al. (2005) C. annuum and C. frutescens are not biologically distinct even though usually recognised at the species level.

The USDA Plants Profile site treats C. frutescens as a synonym of C. annuum var. annuum.

Ref: F.A. Guzma´n, H. Ayala, C. Azurdia, M.C. Duque & M.C. de Vicente (2005). AFLP Assessment of Genetic Diversity of Capsicum Genetic Resources in Guatemala : Home Gardens as an Option for Conservation. Crop Sci. 45: 363–370.


Selected specimens

Qld: Kimguni via Mirani, Apr. 1920, S.H. Nilsson (BRI); near Toorilla Homestead, Port Curtis district, N.H. Speck 1735 (CANB, NSW).

Derivation of epithet

From frutescens, Latin for becoming shrubby.

Images and information on web

See an image of C. frutescens from Spratt's (1829-30) Flora Medica on the Field Museum site at

A painting of the plant with flowers and fruits can also be seen at Das Gewurzlexicon site at

Numerous images are on the web if a Google image search is conducted and images can be accessed through the Botanical and Experimental Garden of the Radboud University of Nijmegen site through images/bgimages.htm

Background information on chile peppers can be found on University of New Mexico Chile Pepper web site at

Further information can be found through the Germplasm Resources Information network (GRIN) or through the USDA Plants Profile site where C. frutescens is treated as a synonym of C. annuum var. annuum. C. frutescens as a weed in the Pacific is treated on the Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) site.


Further information about the toxic properties of this plant can be found with a search in the FDA Poisonous Plant Database and Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases