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Tree Project.

Schinus Molle - Peruvian Pepper Tree.

Schinus Molle, or the Peruvian Pepper Tree, also known as the Californian and Australian Pepper Tree, as well as the American Mastic, belongs to the cashew family. However, unlike the Cashew it had a bad reputation in the 1980’s as being poisonous. Apparently, the sap of the peppertree can cause severe skin problems in some people and the juices in the bark, leaves, and fruits can also be considered harmful to people, many mammals including pigs, possibly calves and many pets such as dogs, as well as birds including poultry. The berries in particular often cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Even the flowers may be harmful causing sneezing, asthma-like reactions and headaches.
Such was the reputation of the Pepper Tree that in the 1980’s the American Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of Brazilian peppercorns from France into the United States. Having said that, preparations of Schinus Molle are sometimes used in folk medicines to make a number of treatments for skin infections and also to treat Asthma.
The pink Berries of Schinus Molle are often sold as Peppercorns, although it is not related to Piper Nigrum which is the true Commercial Pepper, and they are often ground into a widely used spice that is blended with commercial pepper. Because of their aroma and spicy taste the berries are also used to make some drinks.

Schinus Molle can live up to between 50 and 150 years and grows quite quickly to become a fairly large tree of some 50 feet, or so, in height. It is an evergreen tree with a weeping habit and although, it is a tall tree it can develop quite a big canopy covering a large area. The tree’s younger branches may be considered to be weeping giving the tree an over all rounded, or mushroom shape.
Schinus Molle has one close relative commonly called the “Brazilian Peppertree, or Schinus Terebinthifolius. This is a much smaller tree growing to only between 7 and 10 metres. It also has a more sprawling habit and will tolerate semi aquatic, or marshy conditions where it can become a nuisance.
Even though one of the common names of Schinus Molle is the “Californian Pepper Tree,” Schinus Molle actually comes from the drier areas of northern South America and the Peruvian Andes. However, because of its popularity it has spread across the milder parts of the World. It is not very hardy and sharp frosts will kill it here in the UK, although it may well survive in a sheltered spot in a City Garden, or it can be over wintered in a Greenhouse. Larger specimens are likely to survive cold weather better than small ones.

To grow well, Schinus Molle needs full sun, or semi-shade, but is not fussy about the type of soil and may be considered one of the easier trees to grow. It is perhaps, because it is so easy to grow that in parts of the World, such as Australia, it has escaped from cultivation and is considered an invasive species.
Another problem that the Pervian Pepper Tree has is that it plays host to Scale Insects that may cause severe damage to certain other plants and Citrus Orchards in particular.
Although Schinus Molle has some less than favourable characteristics it makes a lovely scented, evergreen, or multi branching shrub, or tree, in the right place and under the right conditions. It even has pleasant small, white flowers that are produced in large clusters at the ends of the branches. The flowers of course result in the production of the pink berries that contain an easily germinated, single seed.



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