May 18, 2009

Pepper Tree

California pepper tree, photo by Rosemary West © 2009This California pepper tree (Schinus molle) is a volunteer in my garden. Less than two years old, it is already more than ten feet tall. Originally it had two main branches veeing away from the base, but one was damaged by winter storms and had to be cut away. The tree now has about half the volume it would otherwise have had.

I'm very fond of pepper trees, but I have mixed feelings about this one. It's not in a spot where a really large tree would be appropriate. Pepper trees are fast growers and can reach 30-40 feet high with a spread to match. Of, course, we can keep it under control (we think) with careful pruning.

Despite the name, these trees aren't really native to California. (Hint: They are also known as the Peruvian pepper tree.) They were brought here from South America by Spanish missionaries a few hundred years ago. They are now naturalized, although I have occasionally seen them classified as invasive, or even as weeds. Drought-resistant, they provide excellent shade, the Spaniards' motive for carrying them so far. Although apparently some people use the "peppers" (small pink fruits that grow in clusters in the fall) to flavor food, it's not a good idea, as they are toxic in quantity.

No comments :

Post a Comment

If you are a real person making a real comment, your comment will appear after moderation. Thank you for your patience.