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Useful Tropical Plants

Vanilla planifolia

Jacks. ex Andrews

Orchidaceae

+ Synonyms

Epidendrum rubrum Lam.

Myrobroma fragrans Salisb.

Notylia planifolia (Jacks. ex Andrews) Conz.

Notylia sativa (Schiede) Conz.

Notylia sylvestris (Schiede) Conz.

Vanilla aromatica Willd.

Vanilla bampsiana Geerinck

Vanilla duckei Huber

Vanilla fragrans Ames

Vanilla rubra (Lam.) Urb.

Vanilla sativa Schiede

Vanilla sylvestris Schiede

Vanilla viridiflora Blume

Common Name: Vanilla

Vanilla planifolia
Cultivated plant, flowering in Florida Southern College's greenhouses
Photograph by: Malcolm Manners
Creative Commons License
Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia Vanilla planifolia

General Information

Vanilla is a succulent-stemmed, perennial climbing plant, producing a stem that can be 5 - 15 metres or more long. The plant grows into trees, supporting itself by means of aerial roots that are produced from the stem nodes. It is often epiphytic, or becomes epiphytic as the lower portion of the stem withers and dies.
Vanilla is one of the world's most important spices[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It is widely cultivated throughout the tropics, mainly on the islands of Madagascar, Reunion, Tahitii, Java and the Seychelles, for its edible seed pod, which is much used as a sweet, aromatic flavouring in ice cream and a wide range of sweet dishes[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Known Hazards

Calcium oxalate crystals are present in the plant, which may cause dermatitis in vanilla workers[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Botanical References


Range

S. America - Bolivia, Colombia; Central America - Costa Rica to Mexico; naturalized in many other areas of Tropical America.

Habitat

An epiphytic plant, it grows wild in trees, producing aerial roots that penetrate fissures and cracks in the bark[
296
Title
Tropical Food Gardens
Publication
 
Author
Norrington. L.
Publisher
Bloomings Books (Melbourne)
Year
2001
ISBN
1-876473-41-x
Description
Excellent little book giving some basic information on a range of plants.
]. Usually found climbing on trees in warm, wet tropical low land forests at elevations from sea-level to 600 metres[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitPerennial Climber
Height15.00 m
PollinatorsMoths
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

The plant thrives in hot moist insular climates with frequent, but not excessive rain and requires two drier months to check vegetative growth and bring the vines into flower[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are in the range 21 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 33°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall of 2,000 - 2,500mm, tolerating 1,500 - 3,000mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
An epiphytic plant, growing in pockets of humus on tree branches[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It requires a position in semi-shade, well-protected from winds[
296
Title
Tropical Food Gardens
Publication
 
Author
Norrington. L.
Publisher
Bloomings Books (Melbourne)
Year
2001
ISBN
1-876473-41-x
Description
Excellent little book giving some basic information on a range of plants.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 4.3 - 8[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Plants produced from short cuttings, around 30cm in length, will take 3 - 5 years before they flower and start to produce fruit. If longer cuttings, around 90 - 100cm in length, are used, then fruiting can commence after only 1 - 2 years[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Under favourable conditions a plant may grow 60 - 120cm per month[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The plant has an economic life of about 10 - 15 years before yields drop and it needs replacing[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The flowers usually need to be hand pollinated, especially when being cultivated outside the plants natural range.
The fruits mature in 180 - 270 days from flowering[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. They are harvested when still green and lacking their distinctive aroma, and are then put through a lengthy curing process during which time they turn brown and develop their aroma[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Yields are very variable - a good vanillery may yield about 2.5 - 4 t/ha per year of fresh fruit, which gives 500 - 800 kg/ha of cured beans[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The flowers are pollinated by a specific species of moth in the night time. In areas where the moth is absent, hand pollination is necessary[
296
Title
Tropical Food Gardens
Publication
 
Author
Norrington. L.
Publisher
Bloomings Books (Melbourne)
Year
2001
ISBN
1-876473-41-x
Description
Excellent little book giving some basic information on a range of plants.
].

Edible Uses

Seedpod - cooked. Used as a flavouring in a wide range of foods such as ice creams, confectionery, baked goods, puddings etc[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. The seedpods contain about 3.5% vanillin[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
The pod can be placed in sugar and left for the flavour to diffuse into the sugar. This sugar is then used as a sweet flavouring in various dishes, especially cakes and desserts[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
The fruit is a dark-brown, 3-angled capsule 15 - 28cm long containing many small seeds[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Medicinal

Traditionally, the seedpods are used as an aphrodisiac, carminative, emmenagogue and stimulant[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].They are said to reduce or cure fevers, spasms and caries[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Vanilla extracts (especially tinctures according to pharmacopoeias) are used in pharmaceutical preparations such as syrups, primarily as a flavouring agent[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Other Uses

The seedpod is used in perfumes and soaps[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Propagation

Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move.
Cuttings, 90 - 120cm long, with at least three leaf nodes. Sit them in loose, friable soil, but do not bury deeply or they will rot[
296
Title
Tropical Food Gardens
Publication
 
Author
Norrington. L.
Publisher
Bloomings Books (Melbourne)
Year
2001
ISBN
1-876473-41-x
Description
Excellent little book giving some basic information on a range of plants.
]. New shoots develop after 30 - 40 days[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Cuttings 1.5 - 2 metres long can be taken at any time of the year, but are best towards the end of the dry season[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The cuttings are kept loosely coiled in a dry, shady place for 2 - 3 weeks before insertion in open compost[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. New shoots develop after 30 - 40 days[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

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