Bixa orellana

Orden: Order: Malvales

Familia: Family: Bixaceae

Género: Genus: Bixa

Especie: Species: Orellana

Nombres comunes: Common names: Achiote, annato, cocote, bija, bixa, onnote, urucú.

Parte de la planta que se usa para el pigmento: Part of the plant used for pigment: Seed

Color: Red

Achiote pigment on paper. 102 x 68 cm.

Herbarium. Dried achiote leaves, sewn on rice paper. 77 x 57 cm. 2013.

Monotype on rice paper made from the dried Achiote leaves. 100 x 65 cm. 2013.



Achiote. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Descripción general

General Description

Tough shrub or small, leafy tree with spreading branches, which may grow between three to ten meters in height. It has heart-shaped leaves, with white or pink flowers that cluster at the ends of its branches. The fruit is oval-shaped, with long, rigid bristles that range in color from red to brown tinges. Its conical seeds may be yellow or red, covered by a layer of the Bixina substance that provides its coloring pigment.

Achiote. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.

Distribución geográfica
e historia natural

Geographic Distribution
and Natural History

A native of tropical America. Although it is grown in other parts of the world, its main concentration still lies in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. The achiote shrub is a rapid growth, ornamental, and grows primarily in warm climates and mountain slopes.

Pigment preparation with the Achiote seeds. Leticia, Colombia, 2011.



The achiote seeds contain a natural dye that has multiple uses. Traditionally, different native American communities used this dye to paint and tattoo the body, as repellent, sunscreen and lip balm. This pigment is also used to dye textiles, decorate kitchen utensils and as a condiment.



A red color is extracted by rubbing the seeds. The yellow-fruit variety of achiote was the kind chosen this time. This is a low-yielding dye, since abundant fruit is necessary for the extraction of color pigment. The extract adheres well on paper, while the intensity of the color diminishes and becomes softer when used on fique (natural fiber) and cotton.

Extracción + teñido

Extraction + dyeing