nutmeg, name applied to members of the family Myristicaceae. The true nutmeg ( Myristica fragrans ) is an evergreen tree native to the Moluccas but now cultivated elsewhere in the tropics and to a limited extent in S Florida. The fruit is the source of two spices of commercial value: whole or ground nutmeg, from the inner seed; and mace, from the fibrous aril (seed covering) that separates the seed from its thick outer husk. It also supplies butters and an essential oil used in medicines, toilet preparations, and dentifrices. Other trees of the Myristica genus, also called nutmegs, are of a limited use commercially. Several species of the tropical American genus Virola are valuable for timber (e.g., V. surinamensis ) and the red resinous sap of some others is boiled down, powdered, and made into a hallucinogenic snuff by some Amazonian indigenous peoples. Connecticut is called the Nutmeg State. Nutmeg is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Magnoliales, family Myristicaceae.
See G. Milton, Nathaniel's Nutmeg (1999).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.