Identify Your Chilli Plant
Sometimes you end up with chilli plants which you can't identify easily. Maybe you purchased some seeds without a label? Maybe a garden centre were clearing out a few unknown varieties? Maybe a friend gave you a plant but can't tell you much about it? Whilst it's not always possible to tell exactly which type of pepper you have grown until you take the ripe fruit and try it, you can at the least, identify the family from the plant's flowers which, in turn, will give you a clue as to what you might be growing.
This is our handy A-Z guide to identifying your Capsicum flowers...
ANNUUM: White flowers. Native to North & South America, Capsicum Annuum chillies are one of the most commonly grown species around the world. Most fruits are thick skinned with a relatively high water content. Peppers such as Jalapeno, Poblano, Cayenne, Serano and Bell all belong to this family. Starting at as little as 0 SHU, many of the peppers in this family are considered to be mild-medium heat. The word 'Annuum' means 'annual' however, this family if perennial.
BACCATUM: Meaning 'berry-like', many Baccatums are known as 'Aji' chillies, especially in South America where they are native. Peppers such as Aji Lemon, Sugar Rush, Bishops Crown, Peppadew and Brazilian Starfish belong to this family. The fruits usually hang down rather than 'facing heaven'. Many of the Baccatum family average around 30,000-50,000 SHU but some can be much less and some much hotter!
CARDENASII: Another South American native (especailly Peru and Bolivia), chillies of the Cardenasii family are small, round berry type fruits. Surprisingly hot despite their size. The branches on the plant are often fragile and the leaves are usually pointed with a lightly hairy appearance. Unlike may other chilli families, Cardenasii plants have shown immunity to Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV).
CHACOENSE: Chillies from the Chacoense species are generally small, slightly elongated berry-like peppers which grow to approx. 10mm in length. Pods are edible, easy to harvest as the pop off the plant calyx and can be of medium heat. The plants grow in a compact manner but tent to spiral and whisp with branches that sprawl. Chacoense flowers have five petals.
CHINENSE: If you are looking to grow hot or super hot chillies then you are in luck! Chinense peppers ar well known around the world and include varieties such as Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and many more. That said, there are a few mild Chinense peppers such as Nu Mex Suave and the Trinidad Perfume. Chinense plants are fairly slow to grow but well worth the wait.
CILIATUM: A Mexican chilli also known as Capsicum Rhomboideum. Quick to grow, the flowers are yellow and form at the end of long stems. The small mature fruit is bright and round but doesn't carry heat and has a sweet, malty taste. It has been a chilli of great discussion among researchers and some believe that this variety should not be part of the capsicum family.
EXIMIUM: A rare pepper native to a small area of Bolivia and Argentina. Pods are small and slender with a pointed oval shape. Hot but not the nicest tasting fruit, this unusual chilli can make a nice ornamental plant. If you have this plant, there is likely to be a number of people willing to take seeds due to its uncommon growth.
FLEXUOSUM: Flowers of white outers and green in the centre. Native to Brazil, the fruit is a tiny, berry with a bullet shape about 7 mm long that ripen to red. Quite hot and uncommon.
FRUTESCENS: A more common variety which includes the like of Tabasco, Piri/Birds Eye and Thai peppers. The stems tend to grow straight up throughout and curve just before touching the flower head. The Frutescens plants tend to be short and shrub-like with a high number of flowers. The chillies themselves are typically lanceoloid in shape and don't vary much.
GALAPAGENOENSE: It should be of little surprise to learn that this variety comes from the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. The plant and leaves are small with distinctive, densely hairy leaves which spread a strong yet pleasant odour when touched. One of the best ways to identify whether you have a Galapagonense plant is the white hair that grows everywhere on the plant! The fruit is dark green (unripe) leading to red when mature and has a small berry-like appearance.
LANCEOLATUM: It's unlikely that you have this variety due to it being very rare (it was thought to be extinct at one point!). Lanceolatum differs from all other species of the genus primarily by the combination of leaf shape and position. The leaves tend to grow in pairs and in the same direction but have very different sizes and shapes depending on the maturity of the plant. The leaves also have tiny hairs which look like spikes. The fruit is small and round with black seeds.
MICROCARPUM: A wild version of the Annuum species.
PRAETERMISSUM: Beautiful flowers, which have a white corolla with yellow/green spots and a large purple boarder around the petals The plant leaves are larger than most of the common Capsicum peppers and the fruits are small yet hot & tasty. One of the more (relatively) common varieties is called Cumari Pollux. The shape of the plant often resembles juniper.
PUBESCENS: The name Pubescens means 'hairy', which refers to the leaves of this pepper. The flowers appear singly or in pairs and the branches are at about 1 cm long flower stems. The calyx has five triangular pointed teeth and the flowers have blue-violet-coloured petals. Pods are rounded and can be apple-like in size and shape with black seeds. Depending on the variety, SHU can be anywhere from 12,000 to 250,000.