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PlantFiles: California Pepper Tree, Mastic Tree, Peppercorn Tree, Peruvian Mastic Tree
Schinus molle

Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Schinus (SKY-nus) (Info)
Species: molle (MAW-ley) (Info)

Synonym:Schinus areiria

12 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
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:
Pale Yellow
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
From hardwood heel cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Ferment seeds before storing
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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17 positives
8 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On Jan 4, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This tree has become a serious, widespread invasive weed in natural areas on several continents: Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Florida, and southern California.

Positive crisr12 On Jan 4, 2015, crisr12 from Hidden Meadows, CA wrote:

We have several pepper trees (Fallbrook, CA) that were planted ~ 3 years ago. There are several northwestern facing that seem to have a lot more yellow then the trees southern facing. What does it mean when the trees have a lot of yellowing? It's winter so we don't water but more than ever 3 weeks and the temps do get below 30 at night. Any help would be much appreciated.

Positive lulubirdme2 On Apr 8, 2013, lulubirdme2 from Campbell, CA wrote:

I have 3 very large ca pepper trees 1- 120 yrs approx. trunk about 180 in. 1- 80 yrs 80 in 1- 60 yrs 60 in the largest tree I think just died is the trunk sellable its large

Neutral Charlottenberg On Nov 7, 2012, Charlottenberg from Paphos
Cyprus wrote:

Has anyone had a problem with pepper tree roots getting into the swimming pool? We have a Schinus Molle - American Pepper Tree which is 7 years old and the trunk is approximately 25 feet from the pool; with no branches over-hanging the pool surround. The tree is regularly pruned and an attractive feature in the garden. Can anyone advise please?

Neutral samanthiemexico On Jun 10, 2012, samanthiemexico from Cambridge, MA wrote:

Hi! I'm hoping someone can tell me how one harvests the peppercorns from the California Pepper Tree. I'm working on a farm in Mexico which has several trees whose peppercorns need to be harvested.

Is there an efficient, safe way to get the peppercorns? These trees are 8-10 meters tall. We are looking for other methods of harvesting that do not include climbing the trees.

Thank you for your help!

Positive alexellio On Mar 13, 2012, alexellio from Akdeniz
Cyprus wrote:

I live in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and planted three pepper trees each about 3 feet tall, three years ago they are now about12 feet tall is this normal and how high will they grow

My soil is not very good it is a new garden with a lot of builders rubble

Regards alex

Positive Budza On Jul 8, 2011, Budza from Harare
Zimbabwe wrote:

We have a line of these trees that were planted to demarcate two separate areas of our property around 20 years ago. They have grown very prolifically, providing a wonderful habitat for birds, and much deep shade that we've been able to use in our swimming pool surrounding and for a lovely tea patio. Growth has been left untended for a number of years, so I recently embarked on an intense pruning exercise with a chain saw. The trees have responded positively ... and almost visibly ... to this, and the removal of both dead and living wood has provided us with excellent fire wood; a blessing in the Zimbabwe's winter months. The dry dead wood burns quickly and completely. I've discovered that the green wood burns too; a lot more slowly, but just as completely.

Positive Cixi On Jan 26, 2010, Cixi from Addis Ababa
Ethiopia wrote:

Does anyone have any experience of transplanting this tree?

I'm asking because it's one of my favourite trees and I've got one in my garden which is about 2.5-3 meters tall but it's been growing in the shade of two much bigger trees and hasn't got room to grow properly either horizontally or vertically. Having mentioned to my husband that I wanted to try moving it to another spot sometime, this morning I found that our gardener had dug it out - which he did all at once, rather than in stages over a period of months as I had intended. Luckily, I discovered this shortly after it had been done and it seemed to have a decent-sized root ball (though many large roots had been chopped right through), so we put it back in its original place with some nice compost and lots of water in the hope that it might survive.

Does anyone know if this gorgeous tree can survive this sort of inadvertent brutality? If so, please let me know; if not, watch this space. BTW, the moral of this scary story is don't wander around your garden thinking out loud.

Neutral treesareus On Nov 4, 2009, treesareus from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

Help! My Pepper Tree's upper branches are dying off. It's an older tree (I'd guess 25 years old) and has thrived in the past. I learned from a neighbor that his three trees, over the last three years, have died. Nothing has changed in the landscape and immediate environment. I am concerned about this development as this tree provides not only beauty but privacy to my property. Can anyone help?

Positive zonascorpio On Aug 26, 2009, zonascorpio from Mesa, AZ wrote:

I have had great luck with my two year old california pepper tree. However, I do need help. I was away for two weeks and my drip system froze up on me. The calcification clogged my drip on my california pepper tree. Now it is brown and apparently dying.
CAN ANYONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT I CAN DO TO BRING IT BACK. I absolutely am heartbroken. It is about 15 feet tall now, and was beautiful. HELP.

Positive MJRVC On Jul 18, 2009, MJRVC from Ojai, CA wrote:

Pepper trees provide excellent shade in the inland valleys and foothills of Southern California. In addition to benefiting from their shade in summer, my horses enjoy snacking on the leaves. I planted my first young Pepper Tree behind one of my horses' turnouts last weekend. Although the tree is only about 3 1/2 feet tall and has a very small trunk, my horse has been standing beside the tree every day... either waiting for it to grow or just to let me know that he appreciates the gesture :)

Positive mxgardner On Apr 18, 2009, mxgardner from Monterrey
Mexico (Zone 9b) wrote:

This tree was originally brought to Mexico by the spaniards from South America several hundreds years ago. Now it grows everywhere in the wild and is known by the name of "pirul". It is usually a wild tree and not grown in gardens for any reason. It has become a very important part of mexican traditional medicine, as its branches are used to "sweep" a persons body and thus "casting away all bad luck" and "evil eye". That is called "una barrida con pirul". It is common practice in many rural communities in today Mexico. Just thought you might find it interesting.

Neutral jimnyo On Feb 16, 2009, jimnyo from Glendora, CA wrote:

does anybody know how to tell the difference between this tree and the Schinus terebinthifolius? it sounds like this one is much more preferable to the other, which is apparently terribly invasive. i just don't want to end up with the wrong one. thanks!

Positive vinenut On Dec 22, 2006, vinenut from Santa Cruz, CA wrote:

I was absolutely dumbfounded to learn that this ( Calif. pepper, Shinus molle) is not a Calif. native plant. Could anyone elaborate on this?
It grows like a native all over the Southwest and especially in California where I live.

Neutral Kelli On Jul 3, 2005, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Native to South America. Another common name is Peruvian pepper tree.

Positive obelisk On Jun 22, 2005, obelisk from London
United Kingdom wrote:

Happy memories of this graceful tree whilst working in Bolivia (Cochabamba).

A candidate being tested here in London for potential use as a drought resisitant street/parks tree

Neutral katyclaire On May 15, 2005, katyclaire from Joshua Tree, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I had a large pepper tree professionally planted when I bought my house in Joshua Tree CA in 2002, so that I could have some "instant" shade for my dog.

It is pretty but I have found that it doesn't stand up to the high winds we have here. We tried removing the tree stakes and cables earlier this year because we were tired of tripping over them. The first big wind we had nearly knocked the tree over and we had to reinstall the stakes. Some 20+ year old specimens at the local post office blew over during some similar winds last year. We have practiced slow drip watering for the life of the tree to discourage shallow rooting, but it didn't seem to help...

Positive lancastr_pepper On Jul 16, 2004, lancastr_pepper from Lancaster, CA wrote:

i bought my tree about 3 weeks ago and so far so good its a big tree so well established already i have seen these trees along the southen ca freeways and i think they are just beautiful i put it in my back yard so my 3 young boys can make a tree fort in it....a little mess is so worth its beauty and living out here in the high desert it makes for one great shade tree i dont think these trees require to much water and they can tolerate high winds that are fequent i hope this helps anyone looking to invest in one of these magistic beauties
lovin life in the high desert

Positive Palmdale_Pepper On Jul 6, 2004, Palmdale_Pepper from Palmdale, CA wrote:

Have lived in Palmdale, CA (High Desert) for many years and the Schinus Molle does well in our area. Wind can be an issue, but I have several in my yard and love them. I am in the culinary industry and wonder what the proper way is to harvest and process to the pepper seeds.

Positive silverbee On Jun 22, 2004, silverbee from Santa Maria, CA wrote:

I also grew up with a pepper tree in the backyard and have memories of climbing into its thick branches to dream and read. They grew everywhere around our town, Santa Maria, California, along Highway 101 before the freeway went in and the ubiquitous oleander usurped its position. In fact, in the 1940s, the trees along the highway were never trimmed, so the foliage hung down to the ground all around and people we called "tramps" would sleep beneath them in snug little rooms. Recently, Santa Maria has begun to remove those "messy" pepper trees and replace them with tidier but less picturesque models.

Several years ago I wondered if I could grow pepper trees from seeds, thinking it would be a good experiment to see if I could bonsai them. I collected some seeds from trees still growing along the old highway that goes through the old town of Nipomo (Thompson Road). I planted them in one-gallon pots in regular potting soil and several of them sprouted and grew with no trouble at all.

I'm now living on a ranch a few miles outside of Santa Maria and have planted the young trees in the ground to develop their trunks. I trim them back every few months, and they have remained healthy and vigorous through a late summer, autumn, winter and spring. I water them regularly and well and have applied nine-month, slow-release Osmocote once.

It happens that there is a marvelous specimen of the species beside our small cottage. It was there when I lived in this house in 1977-78, at which time it had a single trunk with well developed branches. We moved into the house one year ago, and today, that same tree has three huge trunks that have weighted themselves into almost horizontal positions, with long branches extending to the ground. It is quite beautiful, lacy and green, giving wonderful shade. We rake the debris into a compost heap and don't find it a problem. We use a leaf blower to clear off the shale and railroad tie patio surrounding our flower beds. Its beauty far outweighs any difficulties. And, from one arching trunk, we've hung our homemade garden bell (the cutoff top of an oxygen tank) and on quiet evening, just before the quail come in to roost at dusk, we send stirring reverberations up and down the canyon.

I would almost say that the pepper tree is my favorite . . . but of course, there is the ancient oak on the other side of the house . . . and the huge multi-trunk sycamores down by the dry creek bed.


Positive angelam On May 8, 2004, angelam from melbourne
Australia wrote:

This tree is so widely planted in inland Australia and does so well there that many people mistakenly think it is a native. It is a welcome source of shade,and a cool green colour in harsh conditions.

Positive swaygoose On Apr 22, 2004, swaygoose wrote:

It is a messy tree, don't have hanging over your roof because it will make a ton of litter on your roof. Kills everything underneath the dripline. Stands up to high winds and is a great shade tree to sit under. The wood is brittle so far spreading branches may break off. I want to propagate some of these, seeds don't appear to grow.

Positive tkm1 On Jan 24, 2004, tkm1 from Earp, CA wrote:

As a child I grew up with cal.pepper trees in our back yard.I used to climb them and never suffered any rashes as some people predict. Disneyland in Anaheim has tons of them lining the streets and they are beautiful green color.I live in the Colorado River area between AZ. and CA. in zone 9 and purchased two of them 2 years ago and they are doing great,no mess so far.They can't be as messy as arizona Mesquites and they do not defoliate like most trees here.Also they stand up to the heavy winds that we have in the desert.

Positive palmbob On Jul 23, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a pretty hardy tree here in Zone 9b. This tree is incredibly dirty- produces tons of leaves, seeds, bark etc... not a good tree to plant anything under. Funny it's called the California Pepper Tree since it's really from South America (Peru, Argentina and Chile) like all the other Schinus species (Brazil, for terabinthifolia). No idea how it got that name, though it does remarkably well in California and is incredibly popular as a public landscaping tree. ( Do not confuse with the more obnoxious species, S teribinthefolia, which is also all over out here though thankfully not nearly as common as Schinus molle.. Schinus terabinthifolia is a real weed). But this one seems to be, at least in California, much less invasive... really not invasive at all here. In fact, have not seen new seedlings ever come up around these. Must be easy to propagate, though as they are all over and fairly inexpensive.

I changed my rating from neutral to positive now that I have moved to Acton in southern California's Antelope Valley, a forbidding climate for many plants. This tree not only survives here, but looks great all the time, is incredibly drought and wind tolerant, and seems to by happy in the poorest soils imaginable. For year round greenery and shade, this is one of the best options there is for this area.

Neutral RoundRockGar On Jul 23, 2003, RoundRockGar wrote:

I am in Texas and have a customer looking for a California pepper tree. I am having some trouble finding it here and have found out even thought it's hardy to Zone 8 the tree will not do very well here.

Neutral shantihhh On Dec 30, 2002, shantihhh from Alamo, CA wrote:

I have heard pros and cons regarding California Pepper Tree berries. Some say they are poisonious, others say it can be used as Red Pepper in cooking.

There are two type of Pink/red pepper used for culinary purposes. One is a pink berry from a tree. The other is a ripe Piper Nigram, which is a vineing plant (I have often seen in Kerela, India.)


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

Tucson, Arizona
Arcadia, California
Auberry, California
Brentwood, California
Bret Harte, California
Earp, California
Escondido, California
Fremont, California
Joshua Tree, California
Lancaster, California
Long Beach, California
Los Angeles, California
Murrieta, California
Napa, California
Newcastle, California
North Hollywood, California
Palos Verdes Peninsula, California
Redlands, California
San Leandro, California
San Pedro, California
Santa Clarita, California
Sun Valley, California
Sylmar, California
Temecula, California
Vincent, California
Wildomar, California
Yucca Valley, California
Hawaiian Ocean View, Hawaii
Las Vegas, Nevada

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