Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Broad-leaf Pepper Tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is primarily an environmental weed that is currently naturalised in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
  • It is a threat to mesic ecosystems such as wetlands, lakes, streams, saltmarsh, mangrove areas, as well as coastal dunes, and open forest. It has also invaded disturbed roadsides and pasture. It also poses several health and safety problems to humans and stock.
  • Broad-leaf Pepper Tree produces abundant bright-red fruits that attract fruit-eating birds and mammals which aid the dispersal. Water is another means of dispersal.
  • Without effective control Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has the potential to significantly increase its range and become more abundant within its current range.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

The Broad-leaf Pepper Tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is an evergreen shrub or tree 3 to 6 m high (occasionally up to 16 m tall), with wide-spreading, horizontal, non-pendulous branches which can initially be somewhat scrambling when young. The trunk is often multi-stemmed. It has smooth and grey bark. When cut the stem and twigs exude a resinous sap that turns black on exposure to air. The compound leaves are alternately arranged, 3-14 cm long and consist of 5 to 13 leaflets. The leaflets are sometimes red-tinged, resinous and with a turpentine-like aroma, especially when the leaves are crushed. The flowers are produced in branched showy inflorescences, mostly borne in the leaf axils.

Male and female flowers are usually borne on separate plants (occasionally some trees form bisexual flowers, or separate male and female flowers but on the same tree). Both kinds of flowers are similar, small (about. 1.3 mm long) and with white or off-white petals. The abundant fruits are round, one-seeded, slightly-fleshy and bright-red, with an aromatic brown pulp and an elliptic light-brown stone 4-6.5 mm wide.

Due to a relatively high level of variation in Schinus terebinthifolius, and the problems posed by the presence of intermediates between the four named varieties, no infraspecific taxa are recognised in Australia (Ferriter 1997; GRIN 2007 ; APC).

For further information and assistance with identification of Broad-leaf Pepper Tree contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)

Tree, Shrub

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

In its natural range, Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is reported to occur as scattered individuals in a variety of habitats, from sea level to over 700 m elevation (Ferriter 1997).

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has a relatively broad ecological range, but typically invades near damp or wet coastal sites, as well as coastal dunes, open forest and disturbed areas such roadsides and pasture. It tolerates both flooding and drought, freshwater, saline and semi-saline communities. In Hawaii it occurs in sites as high as 920 m above sea level (Wagner et al. 1999)

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has a preference for mesic, usually frost-free, warmer regions of the world. It is tolerant of semi-saline conditions and in Florida it is also an invader of the salt marsh-mangrove transition zone (Ferriter 1997). It has shown the same ability in Queensland and Western Australia (FloraBase 2007; National Herbarium of Victoria 2007). It tends to be sensitive to cold temperatures (Hall et al. 2006).

It is moderately tolerant of shade and can persist under forest canopies, spreading in response to disturbance. Seedlings are quickly killed by flooding, but large plants can tolerate inundation for up to 6 months. It is very drought resistant and has been recommended for planting for fire resistant barriers around homes in the United States, particularly in California (e.g., Bonnot & McCormac 2003).

Are there similar species?

The Broad-leaf Pepper Tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) differs from the Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) in having horizontal, not pendulous branches and fewer leaflets (Pepper Tree has 17 to 35 leaflets while Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has around 5 to 13). The leaflets are also broader in Broad-leaf Pepper Tree (10-30 mm), compared to 2-10 mm wide in Pepper Tree. The two species also differ in the length to width ratio of the leaflets, in Broad-leaf Pepper Tree the leaflet length is 1.5-3 times that of the width, compared with 3-6 times in Pepper Tree (Jessup 1985).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree was included in the list of 71 species that were nominated by state and territory governments for assessment as Weeds of National Significance (WONS). Following an assessment process, Broad-leaf Pepper Tree was not included as one of the 20 WONS; however, it remains a weed of potential national significance.

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is an aggressive pioneer species of wetland and riparian ecosystems. It has invaded many native vegetation communities in Australia, and poses a threat to species diversity in more intact ecosystems. Currently it is chiefly an environmental weed. It can rapidly colonise disturbed and undisturbed vegetation in wetland and riparian ecosystems, as well as coastal dunes, and may suppress re-establishment of native vegetation in the early successional stages of these ecosystems (Csurhes & Edwards 1998; Ensbey 2002). The shading effect and its allelopathic (inhibitory) properties can further prevent re-establishment of native vegetation (Gogue et al. 1974) 

In Perth, Western Australia, it is becoming a major concern as an invader of coastal and near coastal wetlands, lakes and streams (Hussey et al. 1997; Keighery 2007, pers. comm.). At Thornlie it has invaded Eucalyptus rudis woodland along the Canning River foreshore, where it is a serious weed in that part of the river, and is often locally dominant (FloraBase 1998 -). At Blue Gum Lake it occurs in Eucalyptus rudis and Melaleuca rhaphiophylla woodland, and at the former delta of the Preston River at Bunbury it is naturalised on the edge of a Juncus kraussii marsh (FloraBase 1998 -). At Northampton it occurs along a creek in Acacia shrubland. It can also invade drier sites, and has been reported as naturalised in coastal heath at Rockingham.

In Queensland it is also generally an invader of mesic coastal or near coastal sites, but also occurs well inland. At Jacobs Well it occurs in Melaleuca quinquenervia woodland. At Ormiston it is invading mangroves, Melaleuca, Casuarina, Eucalyptus wetland forest at Boondall Wetlands Reserve, disturbed gallery, microphyll vine forest at Bundaberg, and at Degilbo it is invading Corymbia tessellarisEucalyptus crebra and E. tereticornis association on alluvium (National Herbarium of Victoria 2007). In northeast Queensland it is a riparian invader at Wild River at Hertberton. Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is considered to be one of the most invasive naturalised plants in south-eastern Queensland (Batianoff & Butler 2002).

In New South Wales the largest infestation occurs at Mullumbimby, where it has naturalised along the river and the roadside (Ensbey 2002). At Cape Byron it is invading MelaleucaEucalyptus lowland woodland, and at Hastings Point it occurs in beach scrub, in the hind dune areas among Banksia, Cupaniopsis, Alectryon, Acronychia, Schefflera community (National Herbarium of Victoria). It is also naturalised west of Moree. It is an 'alert weed' for the northern suburbs of Sydney (SydneyWeeds Committees 2007).

Dense stands can form around water holes and impede the access to water for stock, and interfere with mustering (Ensbey 2002). They also cast deep shade and prevent establishment of an herbaceous understorey (Cronk & Fuller 1995).

It is also an alternate host for mango black spot disease, and a host of witches broom disease in citrus (Ensbey 2002).

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is known to affect human and animal health as it contains toxic resins. Contact with the sap can cause persistent swelling, rashes, welts, running sores, swollen faces, colic and haemorrhages in the eyes. When flowering, the pollen can cause sneezing, asthma-like reactions and headache. The fruit if eaten is known to cause vomiting and diarrhoea (Queensland Poisons Information Centre 2007). Extensive bird deaths have also been reported in Florida from eating the fruit (Morton 1978). Horses that have been resting beneath the trees have developed dermatitis and swollen faces, similar to symptoms in humans (Ensbey 2002). Consumption by horses and cattle can cause haemorrhages, intestinal complication and fatal colic (Morton 1978). However, there are also reports of goats browsing on the foliage with no ill effects (Francis undated).

How does it spread?

Fruit-eating birds and mammals are attracted by the bright-red fruits and are some of the main distributors of Broad-leaf Pepper Tree (Panetta & McKee 1997; Hall et al. 2006). Silvereyes, figbirds and currawongs have been found to be among the vector species (Panetta & McKee 1997). Another important means of dispersal is water, particularly in riparian ecosystems (Hosking et al. 2003).

What is its history in Australia?

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has been in cultivation in Australia for almost 150 years and is recorded in nursery catalogues in Victoria in the mid 1860s. The first naturalized specimen of Broad-leaf Pepper Tree collected in Western Australia was collected at Alfred Cove, on the south bank of the Swan River in 1980 (FloraBase 1998 – ). The first naturalized specimen in Queensalnd was collected at Bingera in 1948 (Hosking et al. 2003) and in New South Wales at Cape Byron in 1998.

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

The type of control applied will depend on the degree of infestation. Isolated seedlings can be hand-pulled. Large trees can be cut down, the stump dug out and removed. If the stumps are not removed or brushed with herbicide, regrowth will occur through coppicing and root-suckering (Ensbey 2002). Foliar herbicide application can be used on seedlings (PIER 2005).

More detailed information on control in Australia is available form the New South Wales Department of Agriculture (Enseby 2002), the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water (Land Protection 2006) and Panetta & Anderson (2001). Also see Ferriter (1997) and Gioeli & Langeland (2006).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Reproduction can occur three years after germination, and some Broad-leaf Pepper Tree trees can live for 35 years (Hall et al. 2006). Broad-leaf Pepper Tree has two growth phases; a vegetative growth phase during summer and a reproductive phase during winter (Ensbey 2002). Flowering may occur throughout the year, but the main flowering period in Australia occurs during autumn, with a secondary smaller peak in spring (Ensbey 2002).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is naturalised in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

In Western Australia it occurs mainly between Perth and Rockingham, but it is also naturalised near Kalbarri and Northampton (north of Geraldton), and near Bunbury in the south (FloraBase 1998 -).

In Queensland the infestations are mainly concentrated in the south-east of the state, but there are records from Gladstone, and several records from north-east Queensland, such as at Wild River near Herberton (AVH 2007). It has become widespread around the greater Brisbane region (Ensbey 2002).

In New South Wales infestations occur mainly between the Queensland border and the mid north coast region (AVH 2007; Ensbey 2002).

Elsewhere in the world, it is naturalized in the Bahamas, Bonin Island (Japan), China, Fiji, Mauritius, Mediterranean Europe, New Caledonia, New Zealand, North Africa, Puerto Rico, Samoa, South Africa, USA (Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii), and Vanuatu, and many other tropical and subtropical countries (Little et al. 1974; Ferriter 1997; PIER 2005)

Where does it originate?

Broad-leaf Pepper Tree is native to Argentina, southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, and Uruguay (GRIN 2007; Hosking et al. 2003).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Schinus terebinthifolius

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Broad-leaved Pepper Tree, Brazilian Pepper Tree, Japanese Pepper Tree, Florida Holly

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