The clove tree is native to Indonesia. Today, most clove trees are grown on East African islands such as Madagascar. Indonesia started producing large amounts of cloves again in the 1980s, but few of their crops are exported to the rest of the world.
Clove trees are evergreen trees with gray bark and deep green, oval leaves. The leaves are naturally glossy, with a leatherlike texture. The trees grow to heights of 60 feet. Branches of the clove tree are so dense with leaves that grass cannot grow beneath the tree's shade canopy. The trees produce green buds that bloom into white flowers. The flowers eventually develop into hard, red berries.
Clove trees do not produce cloves until they are 5 to 8 years old. Thereafter, cloves are produced each year. The production fluctuates greatly from year to year. The first year, clove production may be heavy, followed by a year of light production and another year of heavy yield.
Clove trees require warm tropical climates with high humidity levels. They prefer rich loamy soil but are able to adapt to red, sandy soil. The soil must be fast-draining, because clove trees do not like to sit in wet conditions. Clove trees prefer to grow in cool climates with rainfall.
Cloves are propagated by seeds or green (nonwoody) cuttings. Seed germination takes approximately 10 to 15 days. Cuttings root quickly if planted directly into rich loamy soil. Clove trees grown from seed take approximately 5 to 8 years to produce cloves.
Cloves are used in cooking and baking to impart a sweet, spicy flavor. They also have medicinal properties and aid in the relief of digestive ailments such as nausea and vomiting. They are said to prevent parasites in the intestines. The oil of cloves is used as a dental pain reliever when applied to an aching tooth or gum.