Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mystery solved

There is a gangly shrub growing in front of the Catholic school on my daily commute to work. Every fall as I bike through the school's parking lot, I notice it and wonder what it is.

mystery3

It has a five-petaled pink flower like an apple or strawberry blossom:

mystery1

but most striking of all are its weird almond-shaped spiky fruits, bright red:

mystery2

A comment from a friend on my Flickr page identified it as an achiote bush. Achiote seeds, or annatto seeds, are used for their natural yellow-orange pigment. They are used to color everything from butter to that weird orange cheddar cheese (I'm looking at you, Wisconsin) to, around here, Filipino rice dishes. So actually, the open pod with seeds inside that you see at the upper left of the second photo is full of achiote/annatto seeds.

Bonus: Now I finally know why the annatto plant is also known as the lipstick plant.

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