Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Brazilian Pepper Tree
Schinus terebinthifolius

Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Schinus (SKY-nus) (Info)
Species: terebinthifolius (ter-ee-binth-ee-FOH-lee-us) (Info)

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Fall


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From woody stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 37 photos.
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5 positives
4 neutrals
29 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative dgarden626 On May 5, 2013, dgarden626 from Hacienda Heights, CA wrote:

Grows without restraint here in LA County in So Cal. Very fast grower, but difficult to control. It sprouted up unnoticed behind a shed and spread throughout our yard before we had a chance to positively identify it.

Negative 4plantsonly On Nov 28, 2012, 4plantsonly from (Zone 9b) wrote:

I am going to have to go with a negative on this one ...yes it has a lot of medicinal value ... and it is very pretty... however I have seen far to much damage to Florida's native wild... it can take a beautiful wild area and destroy it all for miles in just a few short years.. If you do not plan to be responsible enough to greenhouse it (which would be about the only way to for-sure contain it, due to the mass amt of berries it will produce, which birds,wind, and other wildlife will try to spread for you) then don't plant it or have it, even in a greenhouse you would want to cut off all those thousand of little "pepper seed" unless you wish to have a greenhouse full...then you will have to find a way to for sure destroy all the seed (you want wanna mulch it, cause it will just spread, and you can not just trash it to end up in a land filled somewhere just popping up...) think about it... this is a bad one... yes it has good points and purpose , then again so does kudzu... and with the Brazilizn Pepper that is the kinda trouble you face... the same as Kudzu... keep in mind even if you already have it, please do not trade it even with those who may think they want it...if you do you are just spreading the problem..

Positive lorrkin On May 16, 2011, lorrkin from Paphos
Cyprus wrote:

This is exactly what I wanted to hear!:
""On Oct 29, 2007, forceys from Loxahatchee, FL wrote:

We have many of these trees growing on our property. How do you Kill them. We have tried to cut them down but they just grow back. HELP!""

I've had no poblems with this tree, he's happily sitting on my balcony in a pot, doesn't require a lot of water or attention and I wanted to know if I could cut it right back to the trunk for bonsai use.

I wanted to update my balcony anyway, so I'll give it a go!

Negative SkeptikSharon On May 11, 2011, SkeptikSharon from Ontario, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I wasn't sure whether to go with Neutral or Negative on this one.

I have two of these trees growing on my property, both I am assuming have grown from seed dropped in bird poop, as both are right on a fence line where birds often sit. The first one I had noticed maybe a year ago, but had no idea what it was. Its very close to the fence line and so very difficult to get out. Within the year, it has grown to a good 8 feet tall, which is quite scary. I had no idea any tree could grow that fast. It is covered in the little red berries. The other is on the fence line on the opposite side of the yard, right behind a lemon tree that is growing on/through the fence already. It is to the side of the lemon tree trunk, but behind all the foliage and very difficult to get to. It has also sent branches through the fence into the neighbor's yard and will also be very difficult to get out. I need to cut them down before they get any bigger and damage the fence, and then I fully expect to have to keep an eye on them for the rest of the time I live here, so I can cut them back down as they grow up again (I already do that with what I believe is a fig tree).

Negative Xath101 On Feb 13, 2011, Xath101 from Thousand Oaks, CA wrote:

Every February/March I have had strong alergies but could not pinpoint the source.

We paid someone to remove a grate roots... I have been home for days with a sinus infection. Also, we can hear the neighbors coughing and sneezing. Hopefully they have the common rhino virus.

Negative LoveForests On Feb 7, 2011, LoveForests from FU
United States (Zone 9b) wrote:

They grow everywhere here in Florida. They grow very wide, thick and fast. Heard they are going to try to do an extermination of this plant/bush. (Thank goodness!).
These plants/bushes, around here, surround every tree that exists and are about 12 feet high and wide. They spread and sprout easily and are irritating to those with allergies.
Read that it will take heavy chemicals and trimming to get rid of them.
They love to grow around beautiful trees, such as Pine Trees. So if they get cut and then a strong chemical is then applied, I wonder if that chemical will also kill the healthy tree that the 'Brazilian Pepper' grew around. (We already don't have enough trees around here).

Negative Boomchickaboom On Jan 25, 2011, Boomchickaboom from Largo, FL wrote:

This tree has destroyed my families life. Over last four years it has grown in an over grown lot. Now it surrounds the back yard on other side of my fence. Its coming up the side on the county easement.
This has cause soo many heath issues with me and now with my son. I just realised what this plant was after replacing all rugs, a/c ducts, having house inspected. Had to be reason last four yrs my health has gotten soo bad. Now last two years my son is following my symptoms. We are constantly congested. Sore throats. You can smell this plant in my yard front and back. My face is red patchy around my eyes never ending head aches, I tried to goto different doctors they act like I'm crazy. Largo Florida and not one Dr or person will help. We called county they could care less untill we started telling them of county info on this plant that was documented by them. They left it on code enforcement but the guy that owns property is only responsible for clearing it out of front property by road. My yard is up against his were this plant is everywhere. Trying to move but that is proving to be hard. I'm very serious this plant is dangerous we can't seem to get any medical help. Its horrible.

Negative cabau On Aug 31, 2010, cabau from San Diego, CA wrote:

Our neighbor had a large Brazilian pepper tree on the hill behind their back yard that caused no problems until they had it removed. Since then we have had constant sprouting pepper trees from the roots on our part of the hill. The more they are cut, the more they come up until now we have a large grove of pepper trees which have to be trimmed back often so they don't hang way over the back yard. We have been advised that it would require some powerful chemicals being applied after cutting them down to keep them from coming back. I am an organic gardener and don't see any solution to this.

Negative kilargo On Mar 29, 2010, kilargo wrote:

Believe it or not this tree is also a problem in our part of the world too (Southern Africa). It has been a declared a category 1 weed in at least one province and category 3 in others. I have a few on my property and I'm convinced my one horse has developed respiratory problems as a result.

Positive loomis On Oct 31, 2009, loomis from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

I have one growing in my back yard for the last 2 seasons in Las Vegas with no problems. Of course because we only average 4 inches of rain a year that helps to keep this tree in check.

Negative kenahills On Oct 21, 2008, kenahills from Anaheim, CA wrote:

I live in Anaheim Hills California and I absolutely abhor these trees. They are very very messy as they leave a ton of small leaves on the ground along with these ugly dried out red peppers. It is a disaster when the wind blows. My neighbor had 4 medium sized pepper trees and he agreed to cut two of them down when I told him I was getting a pool. That didn't help though. The Santa Ana winds blow and a trashcan full of these peppers and leaves end up in my $100k pool and spa. I had to pay the pool service guy an extra $150 just to clean the mess up and I ended up doing half of the 2 day clean up. I am thinking of telling my neighber to come and clean up his mess out of my yard and pool everytime the wind blows. It's is either that or I am thinking of suing him if he doesn't remove the remaining to pepper trees that he has. The are a complete disaster!

Negative forceys On Oct 29, 2007, forceys from Loxahatchee, FL wrote:

We have many of these trees growing on our property. How do you Kill them. We have tried to cut them down but they just grow back. HELP!

Negative frostweed On Dec 27, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Brazilian Pepper Tree Schinus terebinthifolius is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered and invasive noxious plant in Texas.

Negative eurokitty On Jun 9, 2006, eurokitty from Seattle, WA (Zone 9b) wrote:

We had a professional plant service come and take several pepper trees on our property. However, a large one and a small one were literally growing into a chain link fence, so removing the trunk was not possible. They said they'd ''poison the stump'''so they wouldn't come back. But whatever poison they used, it didn't work.

So unbelievably, after just a few months, have a new tree from the smaller one's trunk, and the big old trunk's roots sprouted another tree. It's like something from a horror movie - it will not die. So we are now having to pull up the chain link fence to be able to get to the trunks to churn them down, and we will have to eliminate the roots on the larger tree. That big tree essentially killed off a Florida cedar and a palm that was near it.

Negative jnana On May 17, 2005, jnana from South Florida, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Another one of the highly invasive plants, considered a Category 1 invasive here in Florida.

Negative TREEHUGR On Dec 7, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

It's not easy to demonstrate what we mean by "invasive" in a photograph so I am submitting a photo to literally show a brazilian pepper crowding out a native palm. Take a look.

Other than that, I don't know who would think these are attractive. What a waste of chlorophyll.

Negative NativePlantFan9 On Jul 20, 2004, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Lots of Brazilian Peppertrees grow in my area in South Florida. They are very salt tolerant and wind and storm tolerant, and they repropagate quickly even after herbicide has been applied to kill them or if they have been cut down at the trunk but the roots have'nt been removed. They can withstand mild freezes up to zone 8 and survive in all zones further south. They are widespread in South America (where native) in its rainforests, mainly east of the Andes Mountains, their western range limit. They provide little use for wildlife where I live and seed collecting is not recommended as they are very invasive and obtaining specimens is illegal without a special permit and/or guideline. However, they are useful in southern California for shade trees and are not very invasive there. They are very annoying here and removal can be difficult. It is listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council as a Category One Invasive. This plant also is found in Texas, California, Hawaii, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

St. John's
Indian River
St. Lucie
Palm Beach
De Soto

Also found in the Keys (part of Monroe County).

This is among the most nasty non-native plant invaders in central and southern Florida. It often looks unattractive. It spreads quickly and crowds out surrounding vegetation. Seedlings often pop up in large numbers over a large surrounding area - even long, long distances from the parent plant. It is now a prohibited species in Florida.

This plant also often causes allergic reactions to some people. Some people also have allergies to it.

Lots of money is spent on it's removal.


Positive sleepybenja On Jun 6, 2004, sleepybenja from North Port, FL wrote:

I had this one growing on the lot line for 10 years.I loved the color and privacy it gave me.Had to cut it back twice a year or as needed,but didn't mind.I used the berries in many dishes-if you buy them,they are very expensive.My dog developed allergies to this tree and than grass,but I never had any problem myself.My new neighbor destroyed this plant when clearing the lot,but I hope some comes back.So just don't hate me but I really like this one.

Positive careyjane On Jun 5, 2004, careyjane from Rabat
Morocco wrote:

I feel rather timid adding a positive comment about Schinus terebinthifolius after all the negative ones! Here in Rabat, Morocco, it was used as a street tree quite a lot, mainly during the French colonisation. The trees are dense and green giving good shade in this hot climate, resisting the sea air, and resisting heavy pruning to keep them clear of overhead power lines etc. It also survives the neglect of low budget maintenance programmes for street trees!

It has to be said also, that forty some years on, many of these trees are now having to be replaced (by other species for the most part) because of hollow trunks and the fact that many are just falling over in strong winds.

I find the twisted dark bark very attractive, and the berries a striking contrast to the green,slightly glossy foliage. Before reading the previous comments, I had never heard of anyone having an adverse reaction to its flowers or sap.

Perhaps the moral of the story is, to echo Islandjim's sentiments, is that it all depends on where it is planted.

Negative Garfoid On Jun 4, 2004, Garfoid from Mission Viejo, CA wrote:

There's one of those nasty trees on my slope in Mission Viejo, Calif. I have to get out there every Spring with the brush cutter to whack down hundreds of little sprouts. What can be done to kill the thing once and for all? Chemspray? What?

Neutral Randu On May 29, 2004, Randu from Seal Beach, CA wrote:

I think we have this tree here in Seal Beach CA in our backyard. It looka a lot like these pictures, especially the white blossom clusters.
The thing that makes me wonder is it doesn't get any red berries.
Does only the female have the berries or do I have a different tree?


Neutral WalterT On May 27, 2004, WalterT from San Diego, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

The Brazilian pepper tree isn't ALL bad. It is a fast grower, even in poor soil, and casts a dense shade. Green all year, at least in S. California. It does invade our wild city canyons, as do many other trees such as Canary Island palms, Fan Palms, Eucalyptus, etc. The city has made feeble attempts to eliminate nonnative species, but if they were to succeed there wouldn't be much left. I live between two major canyons. hike through them periodically, and am thankful for the shade these exotics provide. Native trees such as Live Oak, Toyon (aka California Holly), Sycamore, etc. still grow in large numbers. Variety is the spice of life! WTH.

Negative foodiesleuth On May 26, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I'm not usually negative about many plants, but this is definitely one of them. It has become a pest in some areas of the Big Island where the birds scatter the seeds far and wide...One enterprising business has been using branches of it cut into thick pieces about 8 inches long and make colored pencils by filling with a color insert...good tourist novelty for the kids...Problem is, not enough people cutting it down and when they do, if care is not taken, the seeds will scattered some more!

We have three of the Florida pests here, the "Punk Tree" (Melaleuca quinquenervia) which we call paper bark tree, the Australian Pine or Ironwood tree and the Brazilian Pepper, though the Melaleuca and the Ironwood are also invasive, it has not taken over like the pepper tree.......and at least the ironwood helps with erosion near the shorelines.

Negative TamiMcNally On May 25, 2004, TamiMcNally from Lake Placid, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Horribly invasive and difficult to eradicate
Major problem in south Flordia

Negative tx_natrlst On May 13, 2004, tx_natrlst from Brownsville, TX wrote:

This invasive species is also a huge pest in south Texas. It has invaded the banks of our oxbow lakes literally pushing native trees and other vegetation out of its path. It is like watching a botany horor movie.

Negative Thaumaturgist On Jan 15, 2004, Thaumaturgist from Rockledge, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

This is an environmentalist's worst nightmare in south Florida. I don't know which one is the worse of the two, this or the "Punk Tree" (Melaleuca quinquenervia).

Total eradication is not possible. So far the only solution to arrest the spread of Brazilian Pepper in South Florida had been to indiscriminately burn them every year at a huge cost.

Negative Kelli On Jan 15, 2004, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

The berries are rather pretty but the plant is fairly invasive and birds spread the seeds. Ours came with the house but I would not plant one.

Negative suncatcheracres On Nov 14, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I've lived in Florida, off and on, for many years, and this tree is everywhere in the Tampa Bay Area. I first encountered it as a house-high, inpenetrable hedge along the side of a duplex I was renting. I thought it was an attractive screen, but soon learned from other people that it is probably the most invasive plant in Florida.

I was told it was brought to Florida, along with "punk trees"--a very large eucalyptus type tree with very attractive, peeling white bark, and an obnoxious smell when in flower, to help drain the Everglades--apparently these trees use a lot of water.

I now live in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b, and never see this tree, so perhaps we are safe up here from this alien invader.

Negative palmbob On Nov 14, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This tree is indeed a pest in southern California, too - although not nearly so much as in Florida where it basically lines the highways up and down the coast.

Here it spreads along the streets where it was planted 20+ years ago as a street tree (I don't think they're doing that any longer) and every place along my street where there once was one, there are now hundreds, and weeding/eliminating this tree is costing the cities thousands of dollars. Just in Thousand Oaks alone this tree is constantly being dug and stump grounded, just to pop up again several yards away. Every little bit of root has to be removed or it will grow into a new tree.

From my perspective as a gardener, I particularly hate this tree as it spreads all over the yard and is nearly impossible to eradicate (was planted there before we moved in). But on top of that it has very brittle wood and huge branches fall on cars and plants all the time (I have tried planting around this tree since space was limited in my old garden, and I have lost a lot of plants thanks to its falling branches).

It is a very messy tree with year-round berries and leaves falling all over. We finally had it stump ground and I dug for days trying to find every rootlet; well, of course that was waste of time and now there are probably several hundred itty bitty Brazilian Pepper trees popping up all over. Sigh. I have to say that a well-manicured specimen covered with berries can look nice, but I can only think of what a horrible tree it is.

Negative captphill On Nov 13, 2003, captphill from Stuart, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I live on a cul-de-sac and I'm totally surrounded by these pests. My brother and I have have tried to keep them under control for seven years now. It's a losing battle. I had a single tree by my shed that was interfering with the power cables to my duplex. The utility company came out and sprayed the tree with something that within a week killed it. They came back and cut it down to a one-foot stump. It never grew a single sprout! I'm going to upload a pic of tree that was responsible for at least 70% of the surrounding growth.

Negative amorning1 On Sep 28, 2003, amorning1 from Islamorada, FL wrote:

I just have to jump on this bandwagon: this is the fastest growing plant pest. The whole plant reeks of turpintine. I'm not sure if I agree with the hurricane theory. It's my understanding that it was brought here as a novelty type because of its pretty little red berries in the early 1900's.

I don't know why it is behaving itself in Californina, but here it's seemingly invincible. Seems to grow by the hour. If you do not kill this tree on sight you (and your neighbors) will be sorry.

Negative gorby1515 On Jul 9, 2003, gorby1515 wrote:

I learned the hard way about exposure to sap/leaves on bare skin. Over 2 months ago after cutting back many branches I had a reaction on my arms and neck similar to a mild poison ivy that lasted 7-10 days. But my palms even today are sore, dry, cracked and peeling almost as if they had been burned and moisturizers and medicated creams have no effect other than temporary relief.

Neutral Monocromatico On Jun 7, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

I wouldn't recommend this plant outside its native lands. It's a species from the Brazilian litoral, growing in sand plains near the sea. However, it only seems to tolerate this condition, because in richer and moister soils it seems to grow vigorously, reaching up to 5 times its size in the native habitat.

The leaves have a characteristic scent, and the bark is said to be medicinal. The seeds are used as pepper, but they must be cleaned first. Birds also like the small red fruits, spreading the seeds that will generate new plants elsewhere.

Neutral IslandJim On Nov 19, 2002, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have been involved in the nursery business in southern California and southern Florida. This plant - more than any other - demonstrates the folly of a nationwade invasive species list. it certainly is a pest of major proportions in southern Florida. it is also an extremely attractive (and low maintenance) street tree in southern California.

Negative Paula78373 On Nov 19, 2002, Paula78373 wrote:

This tree is granted very pretty and colorful. It also is of a predatory nature and is crowding out many native species here on the Texas gulf coast.

My daughter is becoming more and more sensitized to it and is having severe allergic reactions from being close to it. Any nearness or actual contact brings on facial swelling, itching and rash, and now beginning to have respiratory symptoms with it.

The city has deemed it a nuisance and is studying ways to eradicate it, basing their efforts off the Florida studies on the tree. Locals here say it was brought in after a hurricaine took out most of the trees as an effort to jump start replanting/replacing trees lost.

I agree fully with those who say kill it on sight, no mercy.

Positive Ulrich On Jun 21, 2002, Ulrich from Manhattan Beach, CA (Zone 11) wrote:

No problem in California where it makes an attractive specimen tree. It can't survive in the wild due to lack of rain. It blooms here in June.

Negative TomD1968 On May 9, 2002, TomD1968 wrote:

As a person working on a federal grant to eradicate this nuisance exotic species in the state of Florida, I can only encourage anyone who sees one of these to KILL IT!!!!! This plant will overgrow all of your other plants, suck all the nutrients out of your soil, and serve no valuable purpose. It is very agressive in that it will quickly overgrow any native Floridian vegetation, and is a pox in general. Please DON'T plant one and kill any that may be on your property.

Negative Floridian On May 2, 2002, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Brazilian Pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius, is one of the worst exotic pest plants in Florida. It should not be planted nor should its growth be encouraged in any way.

It is a member of the Anacardiaceae family which includes poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Many people get an allergic dermatitis if their bare skin comes into contact with the sap. Many also report respiratory problems when the plant is in bloom.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Goodyear, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Anaheim, California (2 reports)
Canoga Park, California
Fallbrook, California
Gardena, California
Lake Elsinore, California
Oildale, California
Ontario, California (2 reports)
Reseda, California
Roseville, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
Thousand Oaks, California (2 reports)
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Bradenton Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Largo, Florida
Loxahatchee, Florida
Melbourne, Florida
Merritt Island, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Sebastian, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Stuart, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida
Honomu, Hawaii
Las Vegas, Nevada

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