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(pepper), a genus of plants of the family Piperaceae. The plants are lianas, rarely small trees and herbs. The flowers are small, mostly unisexual, and in spicate inflorescences. There are approximately 700 species (according to other data, approximately 2,000), distributed in the tropics of both hemispheres, primarily in tropical America and the monsoonal areas of East Asia. The pepper (Piper nigrum), a woody liana, is the most important species. It grows in India and Southeast Asia and is cultivated in tropical areas. Its immature dried fruits yield black pepper; another spice, white pepper, is obtained by separating the pericarp from the mature fruits. The betel (P. betle) is used to make a stimulant masticatory. Many species, including kava (P. methysticum), cubeb (P. cubeba), and long pepper (P. Iongum), yield spices, aromatics, stimulants, or medicinal substances.
Several species of plants from different families are also commonly known as peppers, for example, Capsicum longum and Polygonum hydropiper. The fruits of P. nigrum and C. longum, which are used as condiments, are called pepper.
REFERENCESSiniagin, I. I. Tropicheskoe zemledelie. Moscow, 1968.
Macmillan, H. F. Tropical Planting and Gardening, 5th ed. London, 1943.
Uphof, J. C. T. Dictionary of Economic Plants, 2nd ed. Weinheim, 1968.
M. E. KIRPICHNIKOV