Pimenta dioica
Common Name: allspice 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Myrtaceae
Native Range: Central America, Caribbean, Mexico
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 20.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: July
Bloom Description: Creamy white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant, Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best growth occurs in warm, humid, tropical to sub-tropical climates. Established plants have some drought tolerance. Plants are generally intolerant of frost (established plants will show damage when temperatures dip below 28 degrees F.). In St. Louis, it may be grown in containers that are overwintered indoors. Use a peaty, soil-based potting mix. Plants like high humidity. Container plants may not flower and fruit. Plants are dioecious (separate male and female plants), so female plants will need a male pollinator in order to produce fruit (some male plants may have a few hermaphroditic flowers which will develop fruits).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pimenta dioica, commonly called allspice or Jamaica pepper, is native to the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. It is a small evergreen tree that typically grows from 20-40' tall. The dried unripe fruits (peppercorn-like drupes to 1/4" long) from this tree are ground up into the cooking spice known as allspice. Allspice is a single spice and not a blend of spices, but it smelled enough like a blend (hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and cloves) for the British, who took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, to give it the common name of allspice. Fruits (drupes to 1/4" long) are picked green, dried in the sun and stored, either powdered or whole, for culinary use. Whole fruits generally have a longer shelf life than powders and can be ground or crushed fresh when needed. Leaves (3-6" long) are oblong, leathery and aromatic. Leaves are sometimes used in cooking in somewhat the same manner as bay leaves (remove leaves after cooking). Creamy white flowers in panicles (pyramidal cymes) bloom from the upper leaf axils in summer. Female flowers give way to small green fruits which mature to reddish-brown. Allspice is perhaps the most important spice in Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Caribbean jerk seasoning, mole sauces, marinades and for pickling. It is also used as a spicy addition to meats, stews and sausages. Pimento dram is a rum-based Jamaican liquer made with allspice. Jamaica is the primary exporter of allspice in the world today (Mexico and Honduras also commercially produce). Spanish explorers in the late 1400s mistakenly identified the fruits of this tree as peppers (peppercorn appearance), thus leading to the genus name which comes from the Spanish word pimienta (pepper). Common name of Jamaica pepper follows in this same vein.

Genus name comes from the Spanish word pimento.

Specific epithet means dioecious, with separate male and female plants.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Source of allspice. Container plants are attractive ornamentals.