broadleaved pepper

Schinus terebinthifolia Syn. Schinus terebinthifolius
Infestation (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
female flowers and immature fruit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
once-compound leaf with several leaflets (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of mature fruit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
leaves and clusters of mature fruit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
habit in flower (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
male flowers (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
multiple trunks of an older tree (Photo: Sheldon Navie)

A large tree with spreading branches and compound leaves. Its leaves have 5-9 leaflets, and these leaflets are stalkless. Separate male and female flowers are borne on different plants. These flowers are inconspicuous and borne in densely branched clusters at the tips of the branches and in the leaf forks. Its small glossy 'berries' (about 6 mm across) and turn bright red in colour when ripe.

Common names 
Also known as: broadleaved pepper, Brazilian holly, Brazilian pepper, broad leaf pepper tree, Christmas berry, Christmas berrytree,
Flowering time 
Year round
Native to tropical South America (i.e. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay).
State declaration 
Category 3 - Must not be distributed or disposed. This means it must not be released into the environment unless the distribution or disposal is authorised in a regulation or under a permit.
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

A widespread species that has mainly become naturalised along the eastern and western coasts of Australia. It is most common in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. Less common in the other coastal and sub-coastal regions of these states and along the western coast of Western Australia. Also recorded from the Northern Territory and on Norfolk Island. Widely cultivated throughout the world and also naturalised in southern Europe (e.g. Malta), Africa (e.g. South Africa), tropical Asia, New Zealand, southern USA (e.g. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California), the Caribbean (e.g. the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), Oceania (e.g. Guam, New Caledonia, Hawaii) and the Mascarenes (e.g. La Réunion).


A weed of sub-tropical, tropical and warmer temperate regions, particularly in areas near habitation. It is found along waterways and roadsides, in urban bushland, open woodlands, disturbed sites, waste areas and coastal wetlands.


A large tree with many arching or spreading branches and sometimes also multiple trunks. It usually grows 3-7 m tall and up to 10 m wide, but it can reach up to 16 m in height.

Impact and control methods 

Broad-leaved pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is regarded as a significant environmental weed in Queensland and New South Wales and as a potentially significant environmental weed in Western Australia. It is also regarded as a "sleeper weed" in other parts of Australia and was recenly listed as a priority environmental weed in two Natural Resource Management regions.Broad-leaved pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is also listed in the Global Invasive Species Database, and has been selected among the top 100 of the world's worst invasive alien species.

Stem and leaves 

The younger branches are covered with small whitish coloured spots (i.e. lenticels) and its new stems are softly hairy (i.e. pubescent) or sparsely hairy (i.e. puberulent). The bark of older stems is dark brown or blackish in colour, very rough and deeply ridged. The compound (i.e. pinnate) leaves (8-17 cm long) are alternately arranged along the stems and usually have 5-9 oval (i.e. elliptic), egg-shaped (i.e. ovate), or slightly elongated leaflets. The leaf stalk (i.e. petiole) is 20-30 mm long with a swelling at the base where it joins to the stem. The leaflets (15-80 mm long and 10-35 mm wide) are arranged in pairs, but there is a single leaflet at the tip (i.e. the leaves are imparipinnate). They are attached almost directly to the main leaf axis (i.e. they are sub-sessile) and have dark green upper surfaces and paler undersides. These leaflets are shiny, hairless (i.e. glabrous), and have entire or slightly toothed (i.e. serrulate) margins. Leaflets with toothed margins are generally found on seedlings, young plants, or suckers while mature plants generally have leaflets with entire margins.

Flowers and fruits 

Separate male and female (i.e. unisexual) flowers are borne on different plants (i.e. this species is dioecious). These flowers are borne in densely branched clusters (2-12.5 cm long) at the tips of the branches and in the upper leaf forks (i.e. in terminal or axillary panicles). Individual flowers are small, inconspicuous, and borne on stalks (i.e. pedicels) about 2 mm long. The male and female flowers both have five tiny green sepals and five small whitish-coloured petals (about 2 mm long). The male flowers also possess ten tiny yellow stamens while the female flowers have an ovary topped with three short styles. Flowering occurs throughout the year, but mostly during spring and autumn. The fruit look like small fleshy 'berries' but they have a single, hard, light brown coloured seed in the centre (i.e. they are actually drupes). These fruit (4-6.5 mm across) are rounded (i.e. globular), glossy in appearance, and turn bright red in colour when ripe. When the fruit is fully mature its skin becomes fragile and flakes apart. Fruit are present mainly during winter.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This plant reproduces by seed and also produces suckers from damaged roots or from cut stumps.Seeds are mostly dispersed by birds that eat the fruit.

Similar species 

Broad-leaved pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) may sometimes be confused with pepper tree (Schinus molle var. areira). These two species can be distinguished by the following differences: broad-leaved pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) has spreading leaves with relatively broad leaflets (12-30 mm across).pepper tree (Schinus molle var. areira) has drooping (i.e. pendulous) leaves with very narrow leaflets (2-10 mm across).