Botanical Name: Vanilla planifolia Andrews

Vanilla is used mainly as a flavouring material; a critical intermediary in a host of pharmaceutical products and as a subtle component of perfumes. As a flavouring agent, it is used in the preparation of ice creams, milk, beverages, candies, confectionaries and various bakery items.


Vanilla, a member of the orchid family is a climbing monocot possessing a stout, succulent stem; short petioled, oblong leaves; about 20 cm long. The inflorescence is a raceme with 20 or more flowers. Flowers are 6 cm long, 2.5 cm wide, either yellowish green or white. Fruit popularly known as ‘beans’ or ‘pod’ is a capsule, nearly cylindrical and about 20 cm long.

Origin and Distribution

It is a native of Atlantic Coast from Mexico to Brazil. The important vanilla producing countries are Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Malagasy Republic, Comoro, Reunion, Indonesia, Seychelles and India. Vanilla thrives well from the sea level up to 1000 meter MSL., under hot, moist, tropical climate with adequate well-distributed rainfall. Natural growth is obtained at latitudes, 15 degree North and 20 degree South of the equator. The optimum temperature ranges from 21-32 degree C and rainfall 2000-2500 mm annually. Dry period of about 2 months is needed to restrict vegetative growth and induce flowering. It grows best in light, porous and friable soils with pH. 6-7. Partial shade is essential for successful cultivation.