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Schinus molle
Schinus molle

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Zone
Zones vary by species.
Full Sun
Full
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal
Toxicity
Foliage can cause dermatitis;

Schinus

Pepper Tree
Anacardiaceae
Evergreen, Trees, Decorative fruit or berries

These medium-size evergreen trees are praised by some gardeners, heartily disliked by others. The two species discussed here differ markedly, though both are tolerant of many soils, and leaves of both can cause dermatitis. Female trees bear abundant, small red fruits that attract birds. S. molle is the most widely grown.

Schinus molle
Schinus molle

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Schinus molle

Native to the Peruvian Andes. Fast growth to 25–40 ft. tall and wide. Trunks of old trees are heavy and fantastically gnarled, with knots and burls that often sprout leaves or small branches. Heavy limbs support light, gracefully pendulous branchlets. Bright green leaves have many narrow leaflets to 2 in. long. Drooping, 4–6-in. clusters of tiny yellowish white summer flowers are followed by rosy berries in fall, winter. (Trees with nearly all male flowers do not bear fruit.) This tree produces copious litter, is subject to scale infestation, and has greedy surface roots that make it difficult to garden beneath. Nonetheless, it’s a fine choice for shading a play area or gravel-surfaced, outdoor living space. Just plant it away from paving, sewers, or drains, and give it room to spread. Among the brightest green trees in the desert. Planted at 2-ft. intervals, a row can be pruned into a graceful, billowy hedge. Susceptible to root rots, especially Texas root rot. Little or no water to moderate water. In Hawaii, best at higher elevations.

Schinus terebinthifolius

Native to Brazil; naturalized in Hawaii. Moderate growth to 30 ft. tall and wide; train to single or multiple trunks. Nonpendulous growth. Has darker green, coarser glossy leaves than S. molle, with 5 to 13 oval leaflets; showy bright red berries in winter. Highly variable; select a tree during fruiting season, looking for the largest, showiest berries and best foliage. Dried berries are sold as pink peppercorns; eaten in quantity, they can cause gastric distress. Wood is subject to breakage, so shorten long, lanky limbs and thin the canopy to let winds pass through. Prone to verticillium wilt. Attractive shade tree for patio or garden. Self-sown seedlings can be a problem. In Hawaii, where female trees are invasive, plant males only. Moderate to regular water (applied deeply).

 

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