Practical information to identify and manage non-native, invasive plants and animals
The Quiet Invasion:
A Guide to Invasive Species of the Galveston Bay Area
Brazilian peppertree
Schinus terebinthifolius

USDA Symbol:SCTE
ITIS TSN:28812
Presence:Current Invaders
Habitat:Terrestrial
Native Range:Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina
Toxic Characteristics
Ripe fruits are toxic if ingested. Known to produce a narcotic effect on native wildlife. Sap can cause skin rashes.
Geographic Distribution
Found in Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Locally, established populations have been found on Galveston Island, in Dickinson, and on Virginia Point south of Texas City. Also established along the Lower Texas Coast.
Introduction Pathways
Sold and distributed in the 1800s in Florida as an ornamental; recognized as a nuisance weed in the 1950s. Sold as an ornamental in Texas. Its importation, sale, and distribution are now prohibited. Seeds can be transported by birds and mammals.
Specific Primary Habitats
Invades disturbed areas such as fallow fields, ditches, drained wetlands, and roadsides. Also invades native pine forests. Has a high tolerance for shade and low tolerance for cold temperatures.
Identifying Characteristics
This broadleaf evergreen small tree or shrub is well-laden with intertwining, drooping branches and foliage. Stems are yellow-green. Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, and dark green, with 3-13 leaflets, each 1-2 inches long. A turpentine or pepper fragrance is given off upon crushing the leaves. Flowers cluster in small groups and consist of 5 small, white petals with yellow centers. Fruit are small red berries, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter.
Reproduction Characteristics
Plants can mature 3 years after germination and produce a large amount of seeds. Both male and female flowers bloom September through November; fruits December through February. Will also propagate at the base of the plant via adventitious buds (buds that develop in places other that at the end of a twig) sprouting from roots.
Growth Characteristics
The Brazilian peppertree can grow to 30 or 40 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 3 feet. Responds to abrupt changes in its environment with heavy growth, acting as an opportunistic pioneer species (the first species to establish in a disturbed area).
Ecological, Economic, or Social Impact
The Brazilian peppertree forms dense thickets, shading out native grasses, shrubs, and taking over native pine forests. Considered one of the greatest threats to native biodiversity for its dramatic affect on both plant and animal communities.
Control
For established trees, apply an herbicide containing glyphosate or triclopyr to the cut stump immediately after cutting, or apply triclopyr with a penetrating oil to basal bark 0.75 feet from the ground. Use foliar applications of herbicide for seedlings.

Native Species Alternatives
Below is a list of alternative plants that are native to the area:
  • Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
  • Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)
  • Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana)
This species belongs to the following lists:
Images
To view a larger version of an image, click on the thumbnail.
Stand of Brazilian peppertrees. Photo courtesy of James P. Cuda, University of Florida, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0002008.
Stand of Brazilian peppertrees. Photo courtesy of James P. Cuda, University of Florida, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0002008.
Cluster of fruit of the Brazilian peppertree. Photo courtesy of Stephen D. Hight, USDA Agricultural Research Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0002012.
Cluster of fruit of the Brazilian peppertree. Photo courtesy of Stephen D. Hight, USDA Agricultural Research Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0002012.
Large infestation of the Brazilian peppertree in fruit. Photo courtesy of Randy Westbrooks, U.S. Geological Survey, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1299198.
Large infestation of the Brazilian peppertree in fruit. Photo courtesy of Randy Westbrooks, U.S. Geological Survey, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1299198.
Page Updated/Reviewed: 07/14/2010 8:32 AM
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