Brazilian Pepper

Donna Wilkins

Joined August 2008

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Artist's Description

Brazilian Pepper is a highly invasive species. Beautiful in its own right, but currently listed in the top 5 of invasive species in Florida.

Brazilian pepper is a small bushy evergreen tree or large shrub with compound leaves and shiny red berries. It can reach 30 ft tall with a similar spread. It typically grows multi-stemmed trunks creating a tangled mass of arching and crossing branches to form dense thickets. The leaves are odd-pinnate, which is to say the leaflets are featherlike and paired, except for the single leaflet on the tip. Brazilian pepper produces 6 in panicles (clusters) of tiny white flowers, followed by bright red berrylike drupes that persist all winter until eaten by birds and other animals.

It’s a real pity this tree is so invasive and disruptive of natural communities. Brazilian pepper is a beautiful evergreen with showy bright red berries that are used by South Floridians for Christmas decorations. Honey bees make honey from the flowers. The berries are a very important food source for wintering songbirds. American robins wintering in Florida eat tons of “Florida holly” berries, and their population has probably increased since this weed was brought to Florida. It is, in fact, the birds that have spread Brazilian pepper all around. The seeds pass through their stomachs and germinate in little plops of fertilizer!

Brazilian pepper should not be cultivated because a) it is illegal to do so in many places; b) it is disruptive of natural communities and species; c) it causes skin rashes and respiratory irritation in many people. Brazilian pepper plants should be cut off near the ground and the stump painted with a systemic herbicide such as Roundup® or Garlon®.

Brazilian pepper was imported into Florida in the 1840’s as an ornamental. Since then it has spread throughout much of the peninsula. It has invaded mangrove swamps, pine forests, abandoned farm land, hardwood hammocks, roadsides, and canal banks to form dense thickets that completely shade out other plants. Some populations of endangered plants have been depleted by Brazilian pepper.

WARNING
Like poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Brazilian pepper is a member of the Anacardiaceae family. Contact with most parts of Brazilian pepper can cause an itchy skin rash and sometimes inflammation and swelling of the face and eyes. The flowers and fruits can cause respiratory irritation. Just trimming Brazilian pepper, especially when in bloom, can cause these allergic reactions in many people. Ingestion of the berries causes vomiting. Interestingly, birds do not seem to be effected.

Possession and cultivation of Brazilian pepper is illegal in Florida where the species is listed on the state’s official Noxious Weeds List. Floridata.com

Nikon D70s
18-50mm
F8, 1/250
11/5/08 – 285/22

Featured in Berries, Fruits and Seeds – 3/4/10


Artwork Comments

  • DoreenPhillips
  • Donna Wilkins
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  • Sandy Sparks
  • Donna Wilkins
  • Sandy Sparks
  • Donna Wilkins
  • Sandy Sparks
  • Donna Wilkins
  • vanvic
  • Donna Wilkins
  • Sandy Sparks
  • Donna Wilkins
  • vanvic
  • Donna Wilkins
  • DoreenPhillips
  • Donna Wilkins
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