Amomis acris (Sw.) O.Berg
Amomis caryophyllata Krug & Urb.
Amomis oblongata O.Berg
Amomis pimento O.Berg
Amomis pimentoides O.Berg
Caryophyllus racemosus Mill.
Eugenia tabasco (Willd. ex Schltdl. & Cham.) G.Don
Myrcia acris (Sw.) DC.
Myrcia pimentoides DC.
Myrtus acris Sw.
Myrtus caryophyllata Jacq.
Myrtus citrifolia Poir.
Myrtus pimentoides (DC.) T.Nees
Pimenta acris (Sw.) Kostel.
Pimenta acuminata Bello
Pimenta citrifolia (Poir.) Kostel.
Pimenta pimento Griseb.
Pimenta tabasco (Willd. ex Schltdl. & Cham.) Lundell
Pimentus cotinifolia Raf.
Common Name: Bay Rum Tree
Pimenta racemosa is an evergreen tree with a dense, columnar, dark green crown; it usually grows up to 15 metres tall, but with some specimens up to 25 metres[
]. The bole, which is often slightly ridged and grooved, is up to 20cm in diameter[
The plant is harvested from the wild for its leaves and fruits, which are used as food flavourings, medicines and a source of essential oils. It is sometimes cultivated for its essential oil, and is also grown as an ornamental and shade-producing tree[
The fruit, the essential oil in the leaves and the bay rum made from it, are all toxic and should not be ingested[
Bay rum, as used in hair dressings and aftershaves, may cause irritation of the skin[
The essential oil is approved for food use by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States and is 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS). However, contact dermatitis caused by the components eugenol and phellandrene of the essential oil has been reported[
Northern S. America - Venezuela; Caribbean - Trinidad to Cuba.
Forests, usually on dry slopes in Puerto Rico[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
A plant of lowland tropical areas, where it is found at elevations up to 750 metres[
]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperate is within the range 22 - 28°c, but can tolerate 18 - 32°c[
]. It can tolerate occasional very light frosts, the leaves being damaged at temperatures of -1°c, and limbs being killed at -3°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall of 1,400 - 2,000mm, but can tolerate 700 - 2,800mm[
]. Prefers an annual rainfall of 2,500mm evenly distributed over the year with few months with less than 200 mm rainfall, although natural stands occur in areas with only 750 mm annual rainfall[
]. Although trees grow well with 1,250 - 1,500mm annual rainfall, regrowth following pruning is too slow for commercial plantations to be profitable[
Prefers a sunny position, succeeding in most soils that are well-drained[
]. Growth is best on deep fertile loamy soils with a slightly acid to neutral pH, but most plantations are on marginal soils on slopes, better soils being allocated to food crops[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6, tolerating 4.5 - 7[
After planting, young plants require protection from direct sunlight until they are well established[
Topped seedlings often produce several main shoots. Two main shoots are sometimes retained, since experience has shown that foliage yield is higher than from single-stemmed trees[
After 2 - 3 years, the trees are topped at 3 - 5 metres and are maintained at that height.
Trees coppice well - misshapen or diseased trees can be cut back to ground level, allowing a new shoot to grow from the stump[
Well managed groves are harvested once a year or 3 times in 4 years. The harvesting interval depends more on the age of the leaves than on the rate of regrowth. Leaves are shed after 2 - 3 years, so a harvesting interval longer than 2 years may result in reduced yields[
]. Harvesting can be done year-round, though dry periods are preferred. It is not clear whether the higher yield during this period is due to a higher leaf oil content or to a higher proportion of mature leaves[
Leaf yield in established groves may vary between 8 - 35 t/ha (with an oil content of 1 - 3.5%)[
The life of plantations is indeterminate, as trees regenerate from stumps, but the effect of regular harvesting on the life expectancy is not known. Individual trees of 50 years old are known[
A variable plant, with several varieties being recognized[
]. The var grisea yields a very inferior essential oil that, if combined with other varieties, can have a very negative effect on oil quality[
Care should be taken to remove any spontaneous seedlings that do not yield commercially acceptable bay leaf oil[
The aromatic fruits, bark, and especially the leaves, are processed for use as a spice[
]. The leaves are used as a spice in cooking[
The dried green berries have a spicy flavour with hints of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and are used as a spice[
]. The red-brown to black fruit is a fleshy, subglobose to ellipsoid berry, 8 - 12mm long with 1 - 3 seeds[
The leaves are used to make an aromatic tea[
Bay rum tree has many uses in traditional medicine, mostly based on the antibiotic properties of the phenols in the essential oil[
Bay Rum (the leaves distilled in rum) has been used in folk medicine for treating sore muscles, strains, and sprains[
A tea from the leaves is drunk as a stimulant and as a treatment for flatulence, colds and fever[
The essential oil from the leaves is used as a remedy for stomach pains, and is applied externally to treat skin diseases[
The leaves contain up to 5% essential oil - the highest content occurring in regions of lower rainfall (1,100 mm annually), the lowest in more humid areas (2,200 mm annually)[
]. It is used in perfumery, making soaps, toilet waters etc[
]. The essential oil contains eugenol, myrcine, chavicol and methyl-eugenol[
]. To some people the sensory properties of the oil can be quite offensive, sickly sweet and nauseating; others perceive it as quite fresh and pleasant. Its flavour is warm, almost pungent, spicy and somewhat bitter[
]. A yield of 500g of oil per 45 kilos of leaves has been obtained[
Traditionally, the leaves are distilled with rum to produce bay rum, which has soothing and antiseptic properties and was formerly a very popular toilet water and hair tonic[
In the production of terpeneless bay leaf oil, the terpenes (mostly the monoterpenes with a low boiling point) are removed by vacuum distillation. Myrcene is the most important compound removed[
]. Terpeneless bay leaf oil is a pale straw-coloured to brownish-orange liquid with an intensely sweet, deep and mellow spicy-balsamic odour and lemon-like top note that is less pronounced than in the 'crude' oil. It is easily dissolved in diluted alcohol, which is an advantage as it is often used in preparation with a low alcohol content, such as hair lotions[
An absolute can be prepared by extracting the 'crude' oil with alcohol. The absolute contains neither monoterpene nor sesquiterpene hydrocarbons[
Two different oils distilled from var. Racemosa have been reported: a 'lemon' type and an 'anise' type. Both types are reported from the Caribbean island Guadeloupe and may have been introduced into Java in the 1880s. The 'lemon' type is rich in citral (geranial and neral); the 'anise' type contains mainly methyl eugenol and estragol (methyl chavicol)[
Samples of var. Hispaniolensis were characterized by thymol and 'GAMMA'-terpinene, 1,8-cineole and methyl eugenol, 1,8-cineole and methyl chavicol or 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol[
Samples from var. Ozua were high in 1,8-cineole and 'ALFA'-terpineol[
The essential oil from var. Grisea was characterized by trans-methyl isoeugenol, methyl eugenol or geraniol. Var. Grisea is so common and has such a negative effect on the quality of the oil that it is called 'false bay rum tree'[
The essential oil is used as an insect repellent[
The sapwood is light brown, and the heartwood brownish red or blackish and mottled[
]. The wood is very hard, very heavy, strong, tough, durable and fine-grained[
]. It is resistant to attack by dry-wood termites[
]. The wood is used in carpentry, for making walking sticks, and for posts. It splits easily and is an excellent fuel[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe[
]. Germination generally takes 2 - 6 weeks. Seedlings are ready for transplanting to the field in 18 - 24 months[
]. Before planting the stem is topped to 15 cm and the taproot is pruned to 7 cm to encourage lateral rooting[
Vegetative propagation is rarely practised, but budding which is applied successfully to Pimenta dioica is probably suitable for this species as well[