Schinus molle

Schinus molle Peppercorn tree

Schinus molle Peppercorn tree banks of Yarra River Melbourne

Schinus molle Peppercorn tree trunkGenus: Schinus.

species: molle.

Family: Anacardiaceae.

Common Name: Peppercorn tree, Peruvian pepper, American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, Escobilla, False pepper, Molle del Peru, Pepper tree, Californian pepper tree, Pirul and Peruvian mastic.

Etymology: Schinus: from the Greek name for the mastic tree shinos, (Pistacia lentiscus), which is similar and also related.  molle: is derived from mulli, the Peruvian (Quechua) name for the tree.

Origin: Peruvian Andes.

Description: Quick growing, spreading evergreen tree to 15 meters tall and 5–10 meters wide. The upper branches of the tree are semi-weeping in habit with willow-like leaves.  The bark, leaves and berries are aromatic when crushed.

Foliage: Leaf alternate, pinnately compound, 8-25cm long by 4-9cm wide, drooping (often curved) foliage with numerous (19 to over 40) narrowly lance-shaped alternate leaflets entire or with a few widely spaced teeth, peppery fragrance, green to yellow-green above and below. Twigs are slender, yellow-green, drooping; buds are small and pointed; leaf scars are broadly v-shaped.

Bark:  Initially smooth gray-brown, later becoming irregularly furrowed with reddish brown splits and grayish coarsely scaly ridges.   

Flowers: Male and female flowers are dioecious. They are small with white petals and yellow centers, borne profusely in panicles at the ends of the drooping branches appearing in summer. 

Fruit: Pink to red, round, berry-like dupes with woody seeds carried in dense, hanging clusters, ripen in autumn and persist through winter, peppery fragrance.

Growth Requirements: Full sun, well drained soils. Will tolerate sandy or poor soils, moderate frost and hot conditions once established.

Uses: Parks and gardens as a speciman tree, shade tree, windbreak, pioneer plant, drought tolerant gardens, soil conservation and for soil improvement. The dried and roasted berries are used as pepper substitutes or sold as pink pepper, essential oil distilled from fruit can be used as a spice for baked goods and candy, the bark is used as a dye for tanning skins, fruit is pulverized to make a cool drink called ‘horchatas’ in South America and two different wines are made from the twigs and berries. It has a variety of medical uses in treating wounds and other medical conditions due to its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. It is also speculated that due to its leaves insecticidal properties it could be used as an alternative to chemical pest control. Schinus molle is considered an invasive species in many parts of Australia as it is highly sort after by birds that disperse the seeds in their droppings.

Maintenance: Although an evergreen, the tree can drop 25% of its branches leaves and fruit each year so regular sweeping and cleaning under the tree are required if in an ornamental situation.   
Propagation: by seed that been soaked in water for 12 hours prior to planting. Propagates easily from soft, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings.


Schinus molle Peppercorn tree banks of Yarra River Melbourne


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About Simon 93 Articles

Simon Schubert is a qualified Horticulturist who enjoys gardening and bush-walking. He has a keen interest in science, the natural world and particularly our environment. He would like to share his experiences and knowledge while learning better practices that will hopefully benefit the future for us all. Please join him on some fun adventures while learning about the life of plants and other interesting facts about our world.

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