Tree of the week: Schinus molle – Pepper tree – Peperboom

Schinus molle is a moderately growing evergreen tree native to the Peruvian Andes. This tree has been reported to be the largest of all the Schinus species; it reaches a mature height of 15m when growing conditions are favourable. It is very hardy, drought resistant and can also grow well in saline environments. The life cycle of this tree ranges from 50 to 150 years.

The Peperboom is multi-branching and has weeping foliage. Leaves are pinnately compound with lanceolate leaflets. It produces white or yellow flowers in summer, followed by red berries. Male and female parts are found on separate plants. This tree has a low-branching habit and pruning of lower branches is recommended when the tree is young. It also responds well to coppicing and pollarding.

S.molle is planted for soil conservation, soil improvement, windbreaks, shade and as an ornamental. Although it is evergreen and keeps about 75% of its foliage around the year, the fallen leaves, branches and fruits contribute significantly to soil fertility. It also has a medicinal value and is rich in essential oils. Since it exhibits significant activity against viral and bacterial infections, this tree is still being used in modern herbalism.

Botanical Pronunciation: SKY-nus MOL-le