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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous - recent[1][2]
Piper nigrum, from Koehler (1887)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Magnoliids
Order: Piperales
Family: Piperaceae
  • Verhuellioideae Trelease ex Samain & Wanke 2008
  • Zippelioideae (Miquel 1840) Samain & Wanke 2008
  • Piperoideae Arnott 1832
  • Peperomiaceae Smith 1981

The Piperaceae (/ˌpɪpəˈrʃ/), also known as the pepper family, are a large family of flowering plants. The group contains roughly 3,600 currently accepted species in 5 genera. The vast majority of species can be found within the two main genera: Piper (2,171 species) and Peperomia (over 1,000 species).[4]

Members of the Piperaceae may be small trees, shrubs, or herbs. The distribution of this group is best described as pantropical.

The best-known species, Piper nigrum, yields most peppercorns that are used as spices, including black pepper, although its relatives in the family include many other spices.[5]


The name Piperaceae is derived from the Sanskrit term pippali, Sanskrit: पिप्पलि.[6]

Piper caninum
Peperomia perciliata


The APG III system of 2009 recognizes this family, and assigns it to the order Piperales in the unranked clade magnoliids.[3] The family consists of five genera: Piper, Peperomia, Zippelia, Manekia, and Verhuellia. The previously recognised Pacific genus Macropiper, was recently merged into Piper.[7] A tentative cladogram showing relationships based on Wanke et al. (2007)[8] is shown below. This phylogeny was based on 6,000 base pairs of chloroplast DNA. Only recently has it become clear that Verhuellia is sister to the other four genera in the family.[9]


Verhuellia Miquel 1843 (three species)


Zippelia Blume 1830 (one species)

Manekia Trelease 1927 (six species)


Piper Linnaeus 1753 (about 2,000 species)

Peperomia Ruiz & Pavon 1794 (over 1,000 species)


Members of pepper family are small trees, shrubs, or perennial or annual herbs.

Roots and stems[edit]

Plants are often rhizomatous, and can be terrestrial or epiphytic. The stems can be either simple or branched.


Leaves are simple with entire margins, and are positioned at the base of the plant or along the stem, and can be alternate, opposite, or whorled in arrangement. Stipules are usually present, as are petioles. The leaves are often noticeably aromatic when crushed.


Inflorescences (in the form of spikes) are terminal, opposite the leaves, or located in the axils. Flowers are bisexual, with no perianth, each flower is subtended by a peltate bract. Stamens are 2–6, and hypogynous, with 2-locular anthers. There are usually 3-4 stigmas attached to a single pistil per flower, which is 1 or 3-4 carpellate. The ovary is 1 locular, and superior.

Fruits and seeds[edit]

Fruits are drupelike, with a single seed per fruit. The seeds have a minute embryo, and mealy perisperm.[10]

Traditional medicinal uses[edit]

Numerous members of the Piperaceae family are used in the traditional medicinal systems of indigenous population for a wide variety of illnesses. Many studies have been undertaken to investigate these uses, with a large number of them focusing especially on the active ingredient Piperine and related compounds found in many members of this family, especially Black pepper, Long pepper and Betel,[11][12] as well as kavalactones found in Kava.[13]


  1. ^ "Piperales". www.mobot.org. Retrieved 2023-06-18.
  2. ^ Martínez, Camila; Carvalho, Mónica R.; Madriñán, Santiago; Jaramillo, Carlos A. (2015). "A Late CretaceousPiper(Piperaceae) from Colombia and diversification patterns for the genus". American Journal of Botany. 102 (2): 273–289. doi:10.3732/ajb.1400427. ISSN 0002-9122. PMID 25667080.
  3. ^ a b Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–21. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. hdl:10654/18083. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  4. ^ Stevens, Peter F. (2001). "Home". Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, Version 9. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  5. ^ Ravindran, P. N. (2000). Black Pepper, Piper nigrum. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Harwood Acadiic. p. 553.
  6. ^ . https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E0%A4%AA%E0%A4%BF%E0%A4%AA%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AA%E0%A4%B2%E0%A4%BF#Sanskrit
  7. ^ Wanke, S., Jaramillo, M. A., Borsch, T., Samain, M.-T., Quandt, D., and Neinhuis, C. (2007) "Evolution of Piperales—matK gene and trnK intron sequence data reveal lineage specific resolution contrast". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 477–497.
  8. ^ Wanke, S., Vanderschaeve, L., Mathieu, G., Neinhuis, C., Goetghebeur, P., and Samain, M.S. (2007) "From Forgotten Taxon to a Missing Link? The Position of the Genus Verhuellia (Piperaceae) Revealed by Molecules". Annals of Botany, 99: 1231–1238.
  9. ^ Samain et al. (2010) "Verhuellia is a segregate lineage in Piperaceae: more evidence from flower, fruit and pollen morphology, anatomy and development". Annals of Botany, 105.
  10. ^ Boufford, D.E. (1997)). Flora of North America - Piperaceae. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=10692l
  11. ^ Salehi, Bahare; Zakaria, Zainul Amiruddin; Gyawali, Rabin; Ibrahim, Salam A.; Rajkovic, Jovana; Shinwari, Zabta Khan; Khan, Tariq; Sharifi-Rad, Javad; Ozleyen, Adem; Turkdonmez, Elif; Valussi, Marco (2019-04-07). "Piper Species: A Comprehensive Review on Their Phytochemistry, Biological Activities and Applications". Molecules. 24 (7): 1364. doi:10.3390/molecules24071364. ISSN 1420-3049. PMC 6479398. PMID 30959974.
  12. ^ Derosa, Giuseppe; Maffioli, Pamela; Sahebkar, Amirhossein (2016), Gupta, Subash Chandra; Prasad, Sahdeo; Aggarwal, Bharat B. (eds.), "Piperine and Its Role in Chronic Diseases", Anti-inflammatory Nutraceuticals and Chronic Diseases, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol. 928, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 173–184, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_8, ISBN 978-3-319-41334-1, PMID 27671817, retrieved 2021-06-09
  13. ^ Kanumuri, SRR (2022). "Clinical pharmacokinetics of kavalactones after oral dosing of standardized kava extract in healthy volunteers". J Ethnopharmacol. 2022 Oct 28; 297: 115514. 297. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2022.115514. PMC 9634089. PMID 35777607.

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