Colorido/Bolivian rainbow/ Capiscum frutescens

(South American Heirloom, Early 1900’s)

Ornamental peppers are spectacularly colored varieties of the Capsicum annuum family, which also contains the sweet and hot peppers used in cooking. They have finely shaped leaves and small chili pepper-shaped or ball-shaped fruits. The peppers themselves are brilliantly colored, from scarlet reds to banana yellow, and often grow upright. Uncommon colors such as purple and white are also possible. This unusual coloration can carry over to the leaves themselves, with varieties that have black, purple and variegated foliage. Although the primary use of ornamental peppers is for decoration, the peppers are edible. They are usually very spicy but with less complex flavors than culinary hot peppers.

Bolivian rainbow hot pepper has been grown in Bolivia for centuries. This stunning ornamental have pretty multi-colored foliage, with leaves that start off green and gradually turn to a nice reddish-purple. The flowers are also quite pretty, light purple and semi-translucent. However, the most attractive feature on these amazing plants are the peppers! These peppers start out dark purple, and then change through an absolute rainbow of colors, turning from dark to light purple, to tan, to white, to manila, to yellow, to gold, to orange, to orange-red, and finally turning red, and every color in between. But what is most amazing is that each of the individual peppers changes colors according to its own schedule, which typically results in a variety of different color peppers on the plant at the same time! These brightly colored, teardrop-shaped upright peppers look remarkably like Christmas Tree lights!

Capsicum frutescens L. has been reported to have hypoglycemic properties. Prolonged contact with the skin may cause dermatitis and blisters, while excessive consumption can cause gastroenteritis and kidney damage. The reported life zone for capsicum peppers is 7 to 29 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 4.6 meters and a soil pH of 4.3 to 8.7. Capsicum species are cold sensitive and generally grow best in well-drained, sandy or silt-loam soil. Plantings are established by seeding or transplanting. Flowering usually occurs three months after planting. Hot and dry weather is desirable for fruit ripening. Fruit is generally handpicked as it ripens, and then allowed to dry in the sun, although artifical drying is often employed in Europe and the United States. The fruit may be ground intact or after the removal of seeds, placenta parts, and stalks, increasing the fruit color and lowering the pungency.

Pepper varieties in Capsicum frutescens can be annual or short-lived perennial plants. Flowers are white with a greenish white or greenish yellow corolla, and are either insect or self-fertilized. The plants’ berries typically grow erect; ellipsoid-conical to lanceoloid shaped. They are usually very small and pungent, growing 10-20mm long and 3-7mm in diameter. Fruit typically grows a pale yellow and matures to a bright red, but can also be other colors. C. frutescens has a smaller variety of subspecies, likely because of the lack of human breeding compared to other capsicum species. More recently, however, C. frutescens has been bred to produce ornamental strains, because of its large quantities of erect peppers growing in colorful ripening patterns.‘Bolivian Rainbow’ can be container-grown or planted in mixed borders with other sun-loving ornamental.

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