Scotch Bonnets, Capsicum chinense, can’t cross with bells, C. annuum. Cross pollination cannot affect the current year’s fruit/pod quality. That is determined solely by the “mother plant”, regardless of pollination. What can get affected is the genetic contents of the seeds; i.e. if one plants the seeds, hybrids can appear.

If the bells were hot, it’s because the seeds that were planted were outcrossed (with Hot Wax, or other C. annuum), or one of the hot bell-types got mixed in the seed packing facility.

I do a lot of pepper breeding and experimenting. There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace these days, both by misnaming and mild lookalikes of hot varieties. If one gets seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, they’re pretty good at selling the real thing. Choose Jalapeño “Early” or “M” for hot ones. Usually, the early type is a bit hotter and is often just sold as “Jalapeño”. It’s a smaller type, which develops crack-like patterns as the pods ripen . In stores, it’s a gamble what you get.

Small bees can create random hybrids, but only within certain limitations. Of the three main cultivated varieties, here’s the general consensus:
•Capsicum annuum crosses with C. annuum, not C. chinense or C. baccatum
•C. chinense can cross with C. baccatum, e.g.: CxB; this creates what’s called a “genetic bridge”. What’s useful for pepper breeding is to first make this hybrid, because now one can introduce CxB traits into C. annuum. In other words:
•C. annuum can cross with CxB, e.g.: AxCxB

This is keeping it simple, because there are a bunch of other Capsicum species, with different hybrid potentials.


Nice! I’m working on a brief blog article for Master Gardener about “Peppergate”. Can I use the information about “There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace these days, both by misnaming and mild lookalikes of hot varieties”?

I’ve read it’s probably one of four major seed companies that had the mix up; any thoughts about that?

1 Like

Sure; you can use whatever you’d like to include.

As for the massive pepper mixup in the article you linked: It’s not surprising the Chinese source for Seeds by Design got everything mixed up. A lot of newer suppliers there are sloppy or downright lie about what they’re selling. Check ebay and you’ll find all sorts of impossible fruits and vegetables, neon-blue roses, crazy photoshopped images, etc., being sold from Chinese vendors who haven’t been shut down. Most of these rogue exporters don’t care, once they’ve made the money. It’s hard to say if the pepper mixup was incompetency or indifference.

On the other hand, the Chinese traditional seed producers, breeding and marketing traditional Chinese vegetables, are much more careful because their businesses, mostly within China, depend on it. Facing heaven Chinese chilies better be correct, as the Chinese farmers would raise hell if their massive plantings were incorrect. These varieties have often been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years; they are familiar vegetables. Chinese seed producers have kept an incredible number of varieties, including radishes, cabbages of all sorts, flowering brassicas, mustards, etc. reliably true to type, despite outcrossing possibilities. The masters there are just that.

The older type Asian chilies have been primarily red drying types, Capsicum annuum and C. frutescens. Shishito and Himo Togarashi, and a few others feature in fresh uses. But, the myriad of C. annuum varieties in the Americas dwarfs anything outside of North, Central and south America. It’s a landslide of varieties which are relatively new to Chinese seed producers. You can’t tell by looking whether or not the seeds are correct. There’s a language barrier with often Spanish names to keep track of, or American, Hungarian selections.

China has become an agricultural powerhouse when it comes to pepper production. Even Mexican markets often have chilies imported from China, where massive plantations are putting small Mexican producers out of business. Some peppers that are classics, like chilhuacle negro, for mole, are disappearing.

Truth be told, pepper seed mixups from large scale producers have been uncommon. It mostly has been smaller scale producers, including in the USA, who have had issues. One to a few wrong seeds in a packet usually indicates someone didn’t clean the seed packing or cleaning machines/equipment in between batches. A whole lot being wrong is usually someone not paying attention, careful attention.

As the number of Capsicums growing around the world increases, it’s vital that seed producers everywhere:
Properly label their crop seeds.
Verify the phenotypes of fruits, pods are correct. Rogue improper plants and destroy possible outcrossed neighboring plants.
Isolate their seed crops from contamination, outcrossing by using mechanical, physical barriers, long-distance isolation from other crops or other techniques to insure reliable production and properly identified pure seeds.
Prevent genetic drift by planting large numbers of true-to-type plants.

Newbies in this arena are likely to screw up if they are working large-scale!


Wow @bogman ! Great information!

You mentioned dried peppers, and I imagine you have experience with that. I grew some Espelette this year, and have been drying them outside for awhile.
I’m going to start a new thread.