AZ Arboretums

Schinus molle

california pepper treeCommon: California pepper tree
Family: Anacardiaceae
Origin: Commonly planted in the lowland parts of California and Arizona
Light: Full sun
Water: Needs no water once established. Gets along with poor drainage.
Temperature: Heat and drought tolerant.

Properly used, it is splendid. DON'T plant it between sidewalk and curb, near house foundations, patio paving or entrances, in lawns, or near sewers and drains. DO plant along roads or rustic streets without curbs if you can give it room to spread. A fine tree for shading a play area or gravel-surfaced, informal lounging area. Characteristic tree of mission gardens.

Fast grower to 25-40 ft. tall and wide. Trunk of old trees is heavy and gnarled, with knots and burls that sprout leaves or small branches. Bark is light brown and rough. Limbs are heavy, branchlets light and gracefully drooping. Bright green leaves are divided into many narrow 1-1/2 to 2 inch long leaflets. Brightest green of desert tolerant trees.

Numerous tiny white summer flowers in drooping clusters from 4-6 inches long give way to clusters of rose colored berries in fall and winter. Messy litter. Subject to root rot diseases in infected soils. Fruit attracts birds. Leaves can cause dermatitis. Pepper trees are praised by some, and heartily disliked by others. Gardeners object to the litter, the sale infestation, and the pepper tree's greedy surface roots, yet many people consider it to be a strikingly handsome tree.