All chillies and capsicums come under the genus 'Capsicum'.


There are five domesticated species in the genus Capsicum.

Capsicum Annuum:

This is the most widely cultivated of the chilli species and includes a wide range of types and heat levels.

Although the species is named annuum, which means annual, the plants are not classified as annual. Chilli plants are perennial if planted in frost-free locations.

Chillies within this species range from the sweet, such as capsicums and Bull's Horn, through to hotter varieties such as Jalapeño, Cayenne, Serrano, and Thai chillies.

This species has white to off-white flowers that can sometimes have a purplish tinge.

Capsicum Chinense:

All of the hottest varieties in the world fall into this species. All chilli species originate in the Americas, so the species name, which refers to being Chinese, is a misnomer. A Dutch botanist in the eighteenth century name the species Chinense because he believed it to come from China due to its prevalence in the cuisine there. This species became popular in China after being introduced by European explorers.

Varieties in this species include Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Trinidad Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia and the chilli currently rated the hottest in the world, the Carolina Reaper.

The flowers tend to be small and white.

Capsicum Frutescens:

This species has some of the pungent varieties that started off wild and spread by birds before being cultivated. They tend to be small chillies that grow erect on the plant.

Varieties in this species include Tabasco, African Birdseye, and Siling Labuyo.

The flowers are white with a greenish tinge.

Capsicum Baccatum:

Most of the fruity Peruvian Aji chillies and the Bishop's Crown, as well as the Ubatuba Cambuci fall into this species.

The flowers are white or cream with green or gold sections.

Capsicum Pubescens:

This species is unique in that the chillies all have black seeds. The name pubescens refers to the hairiness of the leaves which have a fine fuzz. The plants in this species include the Manzano and Rocoto varieties. The plants tend to be cold tolerant as they originated in the high altitudes of the Andes in Peru and Bolivia. The plants also tend towards a vine-like habit if not trimmed back and can grow up to approximately 3 metres.

The flowers are mainly vivid purple in colour.