Brazilian pepper: Schinus terebinthifolius
Brazillian pepper is a medium-sized evergreen shrub-like tree
native to Brazil and Paraguay. This shrub-like tree produces
dense clusters of small berries that change from green to bright
red as they ripen.
Look for first:
- compound leaves
- small white flower clusters
- berry-like fruit clusters, glossy green, matures to bright
||Leaves: alternate, odd-pinnately compound with 3-11 (usually
7-9) leaflets, these elliptic-oblong, 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) long, with
upper surfaces dark green (lateral veins obvious, lighter in
color), lower surfaces paler, and leaflet margins often somewhat
toothed. Leaves aromatic when crushed, smelling peppery or like
||Stems: medium shrub-like tree 15 to 30 ft. tall; short trunk
gives way to long, intertwining branches.
||Flowers: unisexual (dioecious), small, in short-branched
clusters at leaf axils of current-season stems; five petals, white
to 2 mm long.
||Fruit: berry-like; clusters are glossy green, ripening to
bright red; seed dark brown, 1/8 in. in diameter.
It was first introduced during the 19th
century and has invaded many habitats in Central and South Florida.
This small shrub-like tree, typically 15 to 30 feet in height, is
the most widespread of Florida's nonnative invasive plant species
occupying more than 700,000 acres. Although primarily an
invader of landscapes in which the soil has been disturbed and fire
excluded, it has formed large dense forests in relatively
undisturbed areas adjacent to mangroves along the southwestern
portion of Everglades National Park and within the coastal areas of
West Central and South Florida. Brazilian pepper is related
to poisonwood, poison oak and poison ivy.
Origin in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay; widely established in
Central and South Florida.
Local dispersal of this species is primarily by raccoons and
opossums; long-distance spread is facilitated by fruit-eating
birds, such as migratory American robins. Brazilian pepper berries
have been reported to produce a narcotic or toxic effect on native
birds and wildlife during some parts of the year.
Because of its aggressive growth rate,
never plant Brazilian pepper. Possession of Brazilian pepper
with the intent to sell or plant is illegal in Florida without a
Why Brazilian pepper must be managed
Brazilian pepper invasions represent a significant threat to
Florida's native plant and wildlife populations. Typically,
Brazilian pepper forms dense forests that exclude all other plant
life by producing a dense closed canopy. These forests are
considered to be poor habitat for native wildlife species and may
negatively impact bird populations.
Environmental damage caused by Brazilian pepper forests
- Brazilian pepper produces dense closed canopy forests that
shade out almost all other plant life.
- Brazilian pepper forests alter natural fire regimes.
- Brazilian pepper forests are considered to be poor habitat for
native wildlife species.
- Because of its relationship to poison ivy, many who come in
contact with its sap develop allergic skin reactions.
pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius)
Image Credit: Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida