Schinus terebinthifolius is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that is native to subtropical and tropical South America (southeastern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay). It is found in the following states of Brazil: Alagoas, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo and Sergipe. Common names include Brazilian pepper, aroeira, rose pepper, and Christmasberry.
Brazilian pepper is a sprawling shrub or small tree, with a shallow root system, reaching a height of 7–10 m. The branches can be upright, reclining, or nearly vine-like, all on the same plant. Its plastic morphology allows it to thrive in all kinds of ecosystems: from dunes to swamps, where it grows as a quasi-aquatic plant. The leaves are alternate, 10–22 cm long, pinnately compound with (3–) 5–15 leaflets; the leaflets are roughly oval (lanceolate to elliptical), 3–6 cm long and 2–3.5 cm broad, and have finely toothed margins, an acute to rounded apex and yellowish veins. The leaf rachis between the leaflets is usually (but not invariably) slightly winged. The plant is dioecious, with small white flowers borne profusely in axillary clusters. The fruit is a small red spherical drupe 4–5 mm diameter, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries.
There are two varieties:
- S. terebinthifolius var. acutifolius. Leaves to 22 cm, with 7–15 leaflets; fruit pink.
- S. terebinthifolius var. terebinthifolius. Leaves to 17 cm, with 5–13 leaflets; fruit red.
Like many other species in the family Anacardiaceae, Brazilian pepper has an aromatic sap that can cause skin reactions (similar to poison ivy burns) in some sensitive people – although the reaction is usually weaker than that induced by touch of the closely related Lithraea molleoides, known as Brazil as "wild" aroeira (aroeira brava). Conversely, Schinus terebinthifolius is commonly known as "tame" aroeira (aroeira mansa).
Cultivation and uses
Although it is not a true pepper (Piper), its dried drupes are often sold as pink peppercorns, as are the fruits from the related species Schinus molle (Peruvian peppertree). The seeds can be used as a spice, adding a pepper-like taste to food. They are usually sold in a dry state and have a bright pink color. They are less often sold pickled in brine, where they have a dull, almost green hue.
In the United States, it has been introduced to California, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana and Florida. Planted originally as an ornamental outside of its native range, Brazilian pepper has become widespread and is considered an invasive species in many subtropical regions with moderate to high rainfall, including parts or all of Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, southern China, Cuba, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Puerto Rico, Réunion, South Africa, and the United States. In drier areas, such as Israel and southern California, it is also grown but has not generally proved invasive. In California, it is considered invasive in coastal regions by the California Invasive Plant Council (www.cal-ipc.org.)
Brazilian pepper is hard to control because it produces basal shoots if the trunk is cut. Trees also produce abundant seeds that are dispersed by birds and ants. It is this same hardiness that makes the tree highly useful for reforestation in its native environment but which enables it to become invasive outside of its natural range.
"Florida Holly" was introduced to Florida by at latest 1891, probably earlier (Gogue et al. 1974), where it has spread rapidly, replacing native plants, like mangroves, with thousands of acres occupied. It is especially adept at colonizing disturbed sites and can grow in both wet and dry conditions. Its growth habit allows it to climb over understory trees and invade mature canopies, forming thickets that choke out most other plants.
The species (including the seed) is legally prohibited from sale, transport, or planting in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Noxious Weed List (F.A.C. 5B-57.007). It is classified as a Category I pest by The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FL EPPC). To keep the plant from spreading into native plant communities and displacing them, local regulations and environmental guidelines require eradication of Brazilian pepper wherever possible. Currently, the State of Florida is working hard to eradicate the species from its lands and has had some success in doing so. The plant and all parts are also illegal for sale or transfer in Texas.
Two herbicides are approved for use in the United States to exterminate Brazilian pepper: Triclopyr, using the basal bark method; and Glyphosate. Picloram can be used if the stump has been freshly cut, but this is not the preferred or most effective means of eradication.
- "Schinus terebinthifolia Raddi". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-03-30. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?70672. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- (Portuguese) Schinus terebinthifolius at Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Florestais
- Paulo Backes & Bruno Irgang, Mata Atlântica: as árvores e a paisagem, Porto Alegre, Paisagem do Sul, 2004, page 102
- Paulo Backes & Bruno Irgang, ibid.
- "Schinus terebinthifolius; Element stewardship abstract". http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/documnts/schiter.pdf.
- Backes & Irgang, op.cit., loc.cit.
- http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/botany/noxweed.html Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
- Florida Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council
- Texas Invasives
- Broadleaved pepper tree Schinus terebinthifolius DECLARED CLASS 3, http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/documents/Biosecurity_EnvironmentalPests/IPA-Broad-Leaved-Pepper-Tree-FactSheet.pdf
- Broad-leaf pepper tree, http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/weeds/profiles/pepper-tree
- Swan Weeds — List of Weeds, http://florabase.dec.wa.gov.au/weeds/swanweeds/list
- Gogue, G. J., Hurst, C. J., & Bancroft, L. 1974. Growth inhibition by Schinus terebinthifolius. HortScience 9 (3): 301.