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Chilli (Capsicum annuum) belongs to the genus Capsicum under Solanaceae family. The Chilli plant is a white flowered, dark green or purple leaved plant that grows up to 1.5 m in height. It is also called as hot pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper etc. Five species of Capsicum are under cultivation, though several wild species have been identified recently. In India, only two species viz. Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescence are known and most of the cultivated varieties belong to the species Capsicum annum. Chilli was introduced in India by the Portuguese in Goa in the middle of 17th century.
Although the species name annuum means “annual” the plant is not an annual but is frost tender. In the absence of winter frosts it can survive several seasons and grow into a large, shrubby perennial herb. The single flowers are an off-white (sometimes purplish) colour while the stem is densely branched and up to 60 cm tall. The fruit are berries that may be green, yellow, orange or red when ripe. While the species can tolerate most frost-free climates, C. annuum is especially productive in warm and dry climates.
While generally self-pollinating, insect visitation is known to increase the fruit size and speed of ripening, as well as ensuring symmetrical development. Pepper flowers have nectaries at the base of the corolla, which helps to attract pollinators. The anthers do not release pollen except via buzz pollination, such as provided by bumble bees.
There are five domesticated species of chilli peppers.