Pimenta racemosa
Common Name: bay rum tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Myrtaceae
Native Range: West Indies
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 25.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant, Evergreen


Best grown in evenly moist, loamy, well-draining, slightly acidic soils in full sun. Hardy in Zones 10 and above. The majority of growers report tolerance of the occasional light frost. Hard frost could cause significant dieback. Can be topped and coppiced to increase leaf production. Easily propagated by seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pimenta racemosa, commonly called bay rum tree or West Indian bay tree, is a small to medium sized evergreen tree native to low altitude forest slopes of northern South America and the Caribbean. It is found in cultivation throughout the tropics, and has been reported as naturalized on some Pacific islands. Mature trees can reach up to 40' tall with a columnar to narrowly pyramidal canopy spreading to around 20' wide. The thin bark is tan to light grey in color and exfoliates to reveal lighter colored inner bark. The thick, leathery foliage is obovate to elliptical in shape and can reach up to 4" long and 2" wide. Dense panicles of small white flowers appear from spring through summer followed by black, fleshy oval-shaped fruits. The fruit is attractive to birds.

The fruit, bark, and leaves of this plant produce a highly aromatic essential oil reminiscent of clove and cinnamon. The majority of commercially available bay rum tree oil is harvested from the leaves. The leaves and fruits are also traditionally used in the treatment of various ailments and as a cooking spice.

Genus name comes from the Spanish word pimienta meaning "pepper", in reference to the similar appearance of the fruits of this species to those of the genus Piper which includes black pepper.

The specific epithet racemosa refers to the shape of the flower clusters.

Bay rum is an aftershave or cologne made by steeping Pimenta racemosa leaves in rum to extract the essential oil. Other oils and extracts are often added, including lime and clove oils.


Susceptible to Eucalyptus rust (Puccinia psidii), a fungus that colonizes young tissues including leaves, shoots, and flowers. Also susceptible to a fungal canker disease known as black rot (Ceratocystis fimbriata). Caterpillars, whiteflies, thrips, weevils, and scale can also be problematic.


This tree's narrow, columnar habit and slow growth rate make it useful for small spaces and as a specimen plant. Situate close to a path, patio, or other highly trafficked area so that the fragrant foliage can be easily enjoyed.