Brazilian Pepper

Schinus terebinthifolius
Brazilian Pepper Profile

Origin and Invasion
Brazilian pepper is native to its namesake Brazil as well as Argentina and Paraguay. In the mid-1800s this tree was introduced to Florida as a popular ornamental shrub. Brazilian pepper branches form a dense thicket with bright green leaves and vibrant red berries that are frequently used for accent landscaping and Christmas decorations. 

While Brazilian pepper is beautiful, it has become one of the most aggressive invasive exotic plant species in the state of Florida. Its range has become massive, with over 700,000 acres of the state invaded by Brazilian pepper. 

Seeds from Brazilian pepper are most frequently dispersed by birds and mammals that commonly eat and pass the seeds. The seeds may also be transported by flowing water. While they become far less likely to germinate over time, Brazilian pepper seeds remain viable for as long as two months. The seeds are more likely to germinate if scarification has occurred. This often occurs via acids in the guts of animals after they’ve ingested the seeds. With high rates of dispersal and germination, Brazilian pepper can spread quickly and efficiently.


Impact
Invading both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, Brazilian pepper negatively impacts a variety of ecosystems throughout Florida. The tree forms a dense canopy. Under the shade of this canopy other plants aren’t able to survive and a monoculture of Brazilian pepper is often established. This is a detriment not only to native vegetation, but also to native animals that rely on a diversity of plant life for food and shelter. 

Brazilian pepper is a member of the Anacariaceae family, whose other members include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. As you might expect from that information, Brazilian pepper contains irritating agents that can cause allergic reactions or dermatitis among those who come into contact with the tree. During the blooming season of Brazilian pepper, September through November, some people also report respiratory ailments.


Characteristics
Brazilian pepper can reach heights over 30 feet. The trunk of this tree is often short with an array of thick, shrub-like branches. Its 1-2 inch leaves are elliptical and arranged alternately along their branches. White,2-3 inch long, fall flowers bloom in clusters. The young fruits that also develop in clusters are green in color. Around December, when the fruit ripens, it turns a vibrant red. 

 

Visit the Resource Management section to learn how biologists at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge work to control invading Brazilian pepper! 



Sources

 

Macdonald, G., Ferrell, J., Sellers, B., Langeland, K., Duperron, T., and Ketterer, E. 2008. University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Circular 1529, Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida. Excerpt retrieved from: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/405

Langeland, K.A., and H.M. Cherry. 2008. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.

Gordon, D.R. and Thomas, K.P. 1997. Strangers in Paradise, Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida, Chapter 2: Florida’s Invasion by Nonindigenous Plants: History, Screening, and Regulation. Island Press, Washington, DC.

Facts About Brazilian Pepper