Characteristics of Cinchona Tree (Cinchona officinalis) in the Wild

Cinchona officinalis
Cinchona (Cinchona officinalis) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae which consists of at least 23 species of trees and shrubs. All of its members come from Andean tropical forests in western South America. Some species are reported to be naturalized in Central America, the South Atlantic, Jamaica, France, Africa, Indonesia, and India.

Historically, the Cinchona tree was sought and cultivated for medicinal uses, because the bark of the Cinchona tree produces quinine and alkaloids which are the single most effective treatment ingredients to fight malaria. That is what makes the Cinchona tree so important and considered valuable.

Lately the Cinchona tree has become the world’s spotlight because its extract is thought to be able to treat patients infected with COVID-19. As we quoted from the article, “There are 100 National Health Institute in the United States and Wuhan China, which are cured by drugs that are commonly spoken by Cinchona.”

Carl Linnaeus named the genus in 1742 and said there were nearly 300 species of Cinchona trees scattered throughout the world, but the revision of the genus in 1998 only identified 23 species.

The original Cinchona tree species (Cinchona officinalis), only found growing naturally in small areas in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. In its native area, the Cinchona tree is not considered to be a medically important tree.

Even so, the quinine tree continues to be trusted and valued as a drug because of its historical heritage. Today, the Cinchona tree is also the national tree of the state of Peru.


Characteristics of Cinchona Leaf

Cinchona officinalis Leaf
Source : Sheila

The leaves grow opposite, lanceolate, 30-40 cm long and 8-10 cm wide.


Characteristics of Cinchona Flower

Cinchona officinalis Flower
Source :

Cinchona flowers have a variety of colors, ranging from white, pink to dark red. The flowers appear on the armpit of the leaf.


Characteristics of Cinchona Fruit

Cinchona officinalis Fruit
Source : Sheila

Quinine fruit is a small capsule that contains many seeds.


Characteristics of the Cinchona Tree

Cinchona officinalis Tree
Source : and Kim Starr

Cinchona trees grow to form large shrubs or small trees with green leaves, they can grow as high as 10-15 meters in the wild.

In South America, the natural population of the Cinchona species has a different geographical distribution. During the 19th century, the introduction of several species into aquaculture in India and Indonesia through the English and Dutch East India Company led to the formation of hybrids.


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