Capsicum Chinense: The Hottest Peppers On Earth

Unique characteristics of Capsicum Chinense

In terms of physical appearance, Capsicum Chinense has a broad range of variation. Some plants, such as the habanero, grow in the form of small, compact bushes that have small, white flowers with five petals. Other plants are more typical of the species, growing full and busy with upright, rigid stems and large green leaves that are thin and wrinkled with two to six flowers per knot.

The peppers themselves also vary greatly in appearance. Some peppers are elongated with a lantern, bonnet or bell shape. Others are small and rounded, similar to the look of birdshot or pellets.

The fruit colors most common to this species are vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. However, just as fruit shape and plant characteristics differ vastly, the fruit color does as well. In addition to the more commonly-known reds and oranges, Capsicum Chinense may bear fruit that appears brown, deep purple or even a dark, nearly-black chocolate brown shade.

The inside of the fruit usually contains several seeds that are small in size and may be flat or rounded. A spongy ribbing divides the internal space in which the seeds are found.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic of this particular species is the distinct aroma given off by these chilies. Even the hottest of the peppers in this species give off a sweet and fruity aroma, which is most often described as being similar to that of an apricot.

Peppers of this variety

Habanero peppers are the most well-known and popular variety of this species, but there are many other types of pepper in the Capsicum Chinense species as well. Other varieties include:

Heat profile

The Capsicum Chinense species produces some of the hottest and spiciest pepper varieties on earth, including the habanero. The combination of the fruity aroma and intense spiciness makes the peppers of this species a passionate favorite among hot-pepper lovers.

However, there are also some peppers of the Capsicum Chinense species that are mild, such as the Nu Mex Suave and the Trinidad perfume. These varieties are mild and aromatic.

Typical flavor similarities

When it comes to this particular species, peppers vary widely in flavor as well as level of heat. That being said, all of the peppers—from the mildest to the fieriest – possess the same characteristic fruity aroma.

Native regions

Literally translated, the name “Chinense” means “from China”. This, however, is quite misleading as Capsicum Chinense is not native to and did not originate from China. This pepper species actually originated in the Amazon Basin and is native to Central American, the Caribbean Islands and the Yucatan region.

Growing essentials – What to know before you grow

Before you consider trying your hand at cultivating this species, it’s important to remember that this is a species with very intense heat. In fact, the heat from these peppers is so intense that it can actually cause harm to both people and pets, causing burns to the skin, mouth and eyes. Great care should be taken if you decide to grow these peppers. Be absolutely sure that pets and children in particular are kept at a safe distance from your plants.

  • This is a tropical species, and as such, it is best grown in warmer climates with high humidity.
  • In the proper conditions, the C. Chinense species will behave as a perennial and can live for several years; however, this plant cannot survive the winter in colder climates.
  • If you do happen to live in an area where the winters are cold, don’t let that stop you from growing this plant, as a new plant will germinate readily from the previous years’ seed over the next growing season.
  • Patience is required for growing this particular species. From seed to harvest, the total time needed for the plant to reach maturity is about 80 to 120 days.
  • Because of Capsicum Chinense’s slow growth and long growing season, it’s important to plant as early as possible so as to allow the time needed for your plant to fully mature.

Photo by: Bonnie James CC 2.0

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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