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Zanthoxylum piperitum (photo courtesy of Karl Gercens III)
Zanthoxylum piperitum (photo courtesy of Karl Gercens III)

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Zone
Zones 6-9, 14-17
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Zanthoxylum piperitum

Japan Pepper, Sansho
Rutaceae
Deciduous, Edible fruit, Shrubs, Trees

Native to China, Japan, and Korea. Dense growth to 8–20 ft. tall and wide. Handsome dark green, 3–6-in.-long leaves with 11 to 23 oval, 2-in.-long leaflets; may turn yellow in autumn. Flat, 1/2-in.-long spines in pairs along stems. Inconspicuous green flowers. Small, aromatic red fruits ripen in fall; they have black seeds that are pulverized and used as seasoning in Japan. Peppery-tasting leaves are slightly numbing to the tongue; they too are used in Japanese cuisine.

Plants grow best in rich, well-drained soil in full sun, though they will tolerate light shade. Prune during winter dormancy to remove wayward or crossing branches.

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