Brazilian Peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius)

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S. terebinthifolia
Scientific Name
Schinus terebinthifolia
Scientific Name Synonyms
Schinus terebinthifolius
Common Names
Brazilian peppertree

Miller, J.H., E.B, Chambliss, N.J. Loewenstein. 2010. A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. General Technical Report SRS-119. Asheville, NC. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 126 p.


Evergreen shrub or small tree to 40 feet (12 m) in height often in dense infestations with many short trunks or arching stems of contorted branches. Drooping, odd-pinnately compound leaves that smell of turpentine when crushed. Female plants have many multi-branched clusters of small, whitish flowers in summer and fall that yield clusters of spherical, red and pepper-smelling fruit in winter. Caution: All parts of the plant can cause skin rash or airway irritation in sensitive people.


Twigs and root sprouts yellow green with V-shaped leaf scars, becoming smooth gray-brownish branches that become entangled and tend to droop. Older bark braided with grayish ridges and reddish-brown fissures.


Evergreen and thick, alternate, 3 to 12 inches (8 to 30 cm) long having reddish, sometimes winged midribs, odd-pinnately compound with 3 to 13 sessile, ovate to elliptic leaflets, finely toothed, each 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) long, shiny and green above with light-green midveins and lateral veins and blade paler beneath. Often drooping and emit an aroma of pepper or turpentine when crushed.


September to November and other times. Axillary and terminal on new growth. Multi-branched clusters of many tiny flowers with 5 white petals and yellow centers. Male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious).

Fruit and seeds

December to August. Berrylike, spherical drupes, 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6 to 8 mm) wide, in profuse clusters, light green ripening quickly to bright red and then dark red, fleshy and juicy becoming papery, containing 1 dark brown 0.1- inch (0.3 mm) long seed.


Forms dense thickets, spreading by many root sprouts that yield entangled stems and branches with abundant foliage that contains allelopathic chemicals to exclude other plants and animals. Burns hot. Tolerant to a wide variety of growing conditions, but grows best in moist soils. Persists in shade with rapid growth in full sun. Producing seed as early as 3 years. Abundant seed are spread by birds, with seedlings able to establish in shade. Presently limited by cold, but spreading northward with warming trends.


Resembles the nonnative peppertree (S. molle L.) escaped in FL, TX, and CA, but its 19 to 40 leaflets are narrowly lance-shaped. Also might resemble another rash causing shrub, poison sumac [Toxicodendron vernix (L.) Kuntze] that frequents similar wet habitats and has jutting, odd-pinnately compound leaves with sharp-tipped leaflets and reddish petioles and stalks.

History and use

Native to South America and introduced in the 1840s to FL as an ornamental and widely sold and planted until recently.


Extensive and dense infestations in FL and south TX.

Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi) is an evergreen shrub or small tree to 40 feet (12 m) in height that often grows in dense infestations and has many short trunks or arching stems of contorted branches. Drooping, odd-pinnately compound leaves smell of turpentine when crushed. Many multibranched clusters of small whitish flowers appear in summer and fall that yield abundant clusters of spherical red pepper-smelling fruit in winter (only on female plants). Seed is produced as early as 3 years. Germination mainly occurs November to April, with seed viability ranging from 30 to 60 percent. Seedling mortality is mostly due to drought.

Seed is spread mainly by birds, but also by ground animals, gravity, and water. Seedlings can establish in shade, but open disturbed areas are most susceptible to invasion. Infestations intensify by many root sprouts that yield entangled stems and branches with abundant foliage having allelopathic chemicals. Burning is intense due to chemicals in the foliage, and can destroy seeds as well as result in basal and root sprouts that can outgrow native species. The species range is presently limited to Florida and extreme south Texas, but with warming trends, spread northward is projected.

Management strategies

  • Cut when seeds are not present and avoid contacting the inter-bark since a rash can result. Seeds appear only on female plants.
  • Minimize disturbance in areas where this plant occurs.
  • Treat when new plants are young to prevent seed formation.
  • Manually pull new seedlings and tree wrench saplings when soil is moist, ensuring removal of all roots.
  • Mechanical and burning treatments should be used with care and extra caution when done in conjunction with herbicide treatments.
  • Treatment combinations should be used that are appropriate for dense thickets with limited access. Access trails may need to be cut.

Recommended control procedures

Trees. For stems too tall for foliar sprays, cut large stems and immediately treat the stump tops with Garlon 3A or a glyphosate herbicide as a 25- to 50-percent solution (3 to 6 quarts per 3-gallon mix), Garlon 4 as a 12-percent solution (3 pints per 3-gallon mix), or Stalker* as a 12-percent solution (3 pints per 3-gallon mix) when not fruiting. ORTHO Brush-B-Gon, Enforcer Brush Killer, and Vine-X are effective undiluted for treating cut-stumps and available in retail garden stores (safe to surrounding plants). For treatment of extensive infestations in forest situations, apply Velpar L* or Hyvar X-L* to the soil surface within 3 feet of the stem (one mL squirt per 1-inch stem diameter) or in a grid pattern at spacings and dilutions specified on the herbicide labels.

Saplings. Apply a basal spray of Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution (5 pints per 3-gallon mix) in a labeled basal oil product, vegetable oil or mineral oil with a penetrant, or fuel oil or diesel fuel (where permitted); or apply undiluted Pathfinder II in the fall when saplings are flowering.

Seedlings and saplings. Thoroughly wet all leaves with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant: a glyphosate herbicide or Garlon 3A as a 2- to 3-percent solution (8 to 12 ounces per 3-gallon mix) or Arsenal AC* as a 0.5-percent solution (2 ounces per 3-gallon mix); and in wet pastures and aquatic sites, Habitat* as a 0.5- to 1-percent solution (2 to 4 ounces per 3-gallon mix) or Clearcast* as a 2-percent solution (8 ounces per 3-gallon mix).

* Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake.



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