Achiote Photos

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Economic Plant Photographs #2

Achiote, Red Sandalwood & Dragon's Blood

Annatto Family (Bixaceae)

1. Achiote or Annatto (Bixa orellana)

The outer covering of achiote seeds contains bixin, a bright red carotenoid pigment that was used to dye clothing during ancient times. Today it is sold as a paste for food coloring in Latin American countries. It is a common coloring agent for margerine, butter, cheese and cosmetics.

The spiny red fruits of achiote (Bixa orellana), a large shrub native to tropical America. The seeds contain bixin, a bright red carotenoid pigment that was used to dye clothing during ancient times. Today the dye is used for food coloring and as body paint by South American Indians.

Legume Family (Fabaceae)

2. Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus)

Powdered red sandalwood or bloodwood (Pterocarpus santalinus), the source of a brilliant red dye. This East Indian tree has a hard, fragrant, reddish wood that is also used in carvings. It is not related to the true Hawaiian and Indian sandalwoods (Santalum spp.) of the sandalwood family (Santalaceae).

Go To Article About True Sandalwood

Left: Another species of Pterocarpus (P. officinalis) photographed along the Indian River on the beautiful Caribbean island of Dominica. Note the characteristic buttressed trunk and serpentine surface roots of this species. Right: The generic name Pterocarpus is derived from the characteristic winged fruits of these trees. The photo shows the winged fruits (legumes) of P. officinalis.

An African species of Pterocarpus known in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe as mukwa wood (Pterocarpus angolensis). This fine-grained, beautiful hardwood is commonly used for furniture and wood carvings. Like other bloodwoods in the genus Pterocarpus, the sap is deep red. In fact, native Rhodesians use the sap as a permanent red dye for their clothing.

Palm Family (Arecaceae) & Dracaena Family (Dracaenaceae)

3. Dragon's Blood: A Bright Red Plant Dye

More Information About Dragon's Blood Dye

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