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Schinus terebinthifolius

Schinus terebinthifolius is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that is native to subtropical and tropical South America . It is found in the following states of Brazil: Alagoas, Bahia, Espirito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Parana, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, and Sergipe. Common names include Brazilian Pepper, Aroeira, Florida Holly, Rose Pepper, and Christmasberry. Schinus terebinthifolius at Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Florestais


Brazilian Pepper is a sprawling shrub or small tree, 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 plantPaulo Backes & Bruno Irgang, Mata Atlantica: as arvores e a paisagem, Porto Alegre, Paisagem do Sul, 2004, page 102. 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 dioeceous, 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:

Schinus terebinthifolius var. acutifolius. Leaves to 22 cm, with 7-15 leaflets; fruit pink.

Schinus 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 close 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

Brazilian pepper is an attractive small tree, widely grown as an ornamental plant in frost-free regions of South America for its decorative foliage and fruit. It is considered as a melliferous flower.Paulo Backes & Bruno Irgang, ibid.

Although it is not a true pepper (Piper), its dried drupes are often sold as pink peppercorns. The seeds can be used as a spice, if used in moderation, 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.

It has been introduced in California, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana. 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, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Puerto Rico, Reunion, South Africa, and the United States (primarily Florida and Hawaii). In drier areas, such as Israel and southern California, it is also grown but has not generally proved invasive.

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.Backes & Irgang, op.cit., loc.cit.


"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 Florida mangroves, with thousands of acres occupied. It is especially suited to 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.

Legal status

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.


Two herbicides are approved for use in the United States to exterminate Brazilian Pepper: Triclopyr (Garlon), using the basil-bark method; and Glyphosate (Roundup). Picloram (Tordon) can be used if the stump has been freshly cut, but this is not the preferred or most effective means of eradication.



Works cited

Gogue, G. J., Hurst, C. J., & Bancroft, L. 1974. Growth inhibition by Schinus terebinthifolius. HortScience 9 (3): 301.

External links

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Global Invasive Species Database: Schinus terebinthifolius

US Nature Conservancy: Schinus terebinthifolius

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