The clove tree, botanically named Syzygium aromaticum L., originates from Maluku Island in Indonesia. Clove was imported to Europe already in the 7th century. Upon discovery of Maluku Island by the Portugese, the clove trade became monopolised by the Portugese until they were driven out by the Dutch in the early 17th century. The trade was thereafter controlled by the Dutch until Pierre Poivre smuggled seedlings of the clove tree out of the country while organising several expeditions on behalf of the French East India Company. Clove were consequently brought to Mauritius in 1770 and thereafter to La Reunion island. The first plants appeared in Madagascar on Sainte Marie island in the 1820s.
In less than a century, the clove tree was adopted by small houseold Madagascar farmers who had quickly gained expertise in its cultivation and valorisation. By 1920/1930 Madagascar became a major producer and exporter of cloves and clove essential oil and is since 1990s the world's leading exporter. Farmers can produce clove spice from the flower buds or essential oil from the leaves, or alternate seasonally between the two.
The clove tree, a member of the Myrtaceae family of evergreen trees, which typically grows in humid tropical climate below 300m where there is no noticeable dry season.
The tree grows well in ferralitic tropical soil and usually gets between 10 and 12 metres but can get as tall as 20 metres.