The main species harvested for vanillin is Vanilla planifolia. Although it is native to Mexico, it is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Madagascar is the world’s largest producer. Additional sources include Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitiensis (grown in Tahiti) – although the vanillin content of these species is much less than Vanilla planifolia.
As a country Indonesia is well placed for the cultivation of vanilla and in fact the quality of vanilla produced in Indonesia is considerably higher than the average International standards. Vanilla grows as a vine, climbing up an existing tree, pole, or other support. It can be grown in a wood (on trees), in a plantation (on trees or poles), or in a “shader”, in increasing orders of productivity. Left alone, it will grow as high as possible on the support, with few flowers. Every year, growers fold the higher parts of the plant downwards so that the plant stays at heights accessible by a standing human. This also greatly stimulates flowering. Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world.