Plant Assessment Form

Schinus terebinthifolius

Synonyms: Schinus mucronulata, S. antiarthriticus

Common Names: Brazilian pepper tree; Christmas-berry tree; Christmasberry; Florida holly

Evaluated on: 5/16/05

List committee review date: 08/07/2005

Re-evaluation date:


Elizabeth Brusati, project manager
California Invasive Plant Council
1442A Walnut St. #462, Berkeley, CA 94709
Joseph M. DiTomaso
University of California, Davis
Dept. Plant Sci., Mail Stop 4, Davis, CA 95616

List commitee members

Jake Sigg
Peter Warner
Bob Case
John Knapp
Elizabeth Brusati

General Comments

No general comments for this species

Table 2. Criteria, Section, and Overall Scores

Overall Score? Moderate
Alert Status? Alert
Documentation? 3 out of 5
Score Documentation
1.1 ?Impact on abiotic ecosystem processes U Reviewed Scientific Publication
Four-part score UCBD Total Score
1.2 ?Impact on plant community C. Minor Other Published Material
1.3 ?Impact on higher trophic levels B. Moderate Other Published Material
1.4 ?Impact on genetic integrity D. None Other Published Material
2.1 ?Role of anthropogenic and natural disturbance in establishment B. Moderate Other Published Material
Total Points
13 Total Score B
2.2 ?Local rate of spread with no management C. Stable Observational
2.3 ?Recent trend in total area infested within state C. Stable Observational
2.4 ?Innate reproductive potential
(see Worksheet A)
B. Moderate Other Published Material
2.5 ?Potential for human-caused dispersal B. Moderate Other Published Material
2.6 ? Potential for natural long-distance dispersal A. Frequent Other Published Material
2.7 ?Other regions invaded B. Invades 1 or 2 ecological types Other Published Material
3.1 ?Ecological amplitude/Range
(see Worksheet C)
B. Moderate Other Published Material
Total Score C
3.2 ?Distribution/Peak frequency
(see Worksheet C)
D. Very low Other Published Material

Table 3. Documentation

Scores are explained in the "Criteria for Categorizing Invasive Non-Native Plants that Threaten Wildlands".

Section 1: Impact
Question 1.1 Impact on abiotic ecosystem processes? U Reviewed Scientific Publication
Identify ecosystem processes impacted:


Sources of information:

Question 1.2 Impact on plant community composition,
structure, and interactions?
C Other Published Material
Identify type of impact or alteration:

Dense monocultures form within a few years after Schinus invades an area. The dense canopy can shade out other vegetation. The tenacity of Brazilian pepper seedlings impairs competition by native vegetation and it may produce allelopathic chemicals. This species is locally invasive in certain riparian areas of Southern California and has aggressively colonized hundreds of thousands of acres in Florida. No common enough in Califonria to have an impact.

Sources of information:

Randall, J. J. 2000. Schinus terebinthifolius. pp. 282-286 in Bossard, C.C., J. M. Randall, and M. Hochovsky. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press. Berkeley.
DiTomaso and Healy. 2006. Weeds of California. UC DANR Publ. #3488.

Question 1.3 Impact on higher trophic levels? B Other Published Material
Identify type of impact or alteration:

Seeds eaten by birds and mammals (1). Bark, leaves, and fruit contain chemical such as triterpene alcohols, ketones, acids, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. Monoterpenes released by crushed fruit may cause respiratory problems. Persons sitting or playing beneath Brazilian pepper have experienced flu-like symptoms, including sneezing, sinus congestion, chest pains, and headaches. However, the pollen does not appear to be an allergen (2)

Sources of information:

1. Randall 2000
2. Ferriter, A. (ed). 1997. Brazilian pepper management plan for Florida. Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, Brazilian Pepper Task Force. Available:

Question 1.4 Impact on genetic integrity? D Other Published Material

None No closely related native species.

Sources of information:

Hickman, J. C. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual, Higher Plants of California. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA enter text here

Section 2: Invasiveness
Question 2.1 Role of anthropogenic and natural disturbance
in establishment?
C Observational
Describe role of disturbance:

Is a pioneer species in disturbed habitats, but can also establish in undisturbed natural areas. In California, inhabits areas such as desert washes that receive natural disturbance (1).

Sources of information:

Elfers, S.C. 1988. Element stewardship abstract for Schinus terebinthifolius. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. Available:

Question 2.2 Local rate of spread with no management? C Observational
Describe rate of spread:

While it has spread rapidly in Florida and Hawaii, it does not seem to be as invasive yet in California.

Sources of information:

DiTomaso, observational

Question 2.3 Recent trend in total area infested within state? C Observational
Describe trend:

Appears to be relatively static.

Sources of information:

DiTomaso, observational

Question 2.4 Innate reproductive potential? B Other Published Material
Describe key reproductive characteristics:

Mostly dioecious with male and female flowers on separate trees. Reproduces by seed. Flowering begins in September, and by mid-October most trees are in flower. Most flowering ceases in November. Fruit ripening happens soon after flowering. Mature female trees are prolific seed producers, which, combined with viability rates of 30-60%, results in many seedlings. Ripe fruits are retained on the tree for up to eight months. Seeds lose viability approximately 5 months after dispersal. Most seed germination occurs in January and February. Survival of seedlings ranges from 66-100%. Begins reproducing within 3 years of germination. Can resprout from aboveground stems and root crowns following cutting, girdling, or fire. Its shallow root system allows for development of suckers that produce another plant.

Sources of information:

Randall 2000
DiTomaso and Healy. 2006. Weeds of California. UC DANR Publ. #3488.

Question 2.5 Potential for human-caused dispersal? B Other Published Material
Identify dispersal mechanisms:

Popular as an ornamental, but not as popular in California as S. molle. The original route of introduction into California was through the nursery industry. Occasionally escapes cultivation from gardens.

Sources of information:

Randall 2000

Question 2.6 Potential for natural long-distance dispersal? A Other Published Material
Identify dispersal mechanisms:

Ripe fruits transported by mammals and birds, especially robins. Raccoons and opossums deposit seeds with fecal material, providing nutrients for the germinating seed (1). Relies on frugivores for dispersal (2). Can also be dispersed by water (3).

Sources of information:

1. Randall 2000
2. Panetta, F. D., and J. McKee. 1997. Recruitment of the invasive ornamental, Schinus terebinthifolius, is dependent upon frugivores. Australian Journal of Ecology. 22:432-438
3. Elfers 1988

Question 2.7 Other regions invaded? B Other Published Material
Identify other regions:

Native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, where it is a sparsely distributed species on savannahs. Now invasive in Florida, Hawaii, Bermuda, and the Bahamas (1). Naturalized in more than 20 countries and its range forms two circumglobal belts (2). So invasive in Hawaii that gardeners are advised to grow male plants only because they do not produce berries (3). Widespread problem elsewhere but fairly limited distribution in California.

Sources of information:

1. Randall 2000
2. Elfers 1988
3. Brenzel, K. N. 2001. Sunset Western Garden Book. Sunset Publishing Company, Menlo Park, CA.

Section 3: Distribution
Question 3.1 Ecological amplitude/Range? B Other Published Material

Problematic in southern California from Riverside to the coast, including Ventura and San Diego counties. Also found in Santa Clara County. Usually found below 200m elevation, especially in canyons and washes (1). Planted as an ornamental since the 1800's, and as of 1980 was not considered naturalized in California (2). Invades riparian areas and wetlands (3), including the San Diego River (4).

Sources of information:

1. Randall 2000
2. Nilsen, E. T., and W. H. Muller. 1980. A comparison of the relative naturalization ability of two Schinus species in southern California. I. Seed germination. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 107:51-56
3. Martus, Carolyn. California Native Plant Society, San Diego. pers. comm. 5/18/05
4. Burkhartt, B. 2005. Which weeds dominate southern California urban riparian systems? Cal-IPC News. 13(1):4-5, 12. Available:

Question 3.2 Distribution/Peak frequency? D Other Published Material
Describe distribution:

No information on how widespread it is, but so far it is mostly limited to southern California. The fact that it grows in Santa Clara County seems to indicate that it could spread in more northern areas of the state as well (reviewer's assumption).

Sources of information:

1. Randall 2000

Worksheet A - Innate reproductive potential

Reaches reproductive maturity in 2 years or less No
Dense infestations produce >1,000 viable seed per square meter Yes
Populations of this species produce seeds every year. Yes
Seed production sustained over 3 or more months within a population annually No
Seeds remain viable in soil for three or more years No
Viable seed produced with both self-pollination and cross-pollination No
Has quickly spreading vegetative structures (rhizomes, roots, etc.) that may root at nodes No
Fragments easily and fragments can become established elsewhere No
Resprouts readily when cut, grazed, or burned Yes
Total points: 4
Total unknowns: 0
Total score: B?

Related traits:

Worksheet B - Arizona Ecological Types is not included here

Worksheet C - California Ecological Types

(sensu Holland 1986)
Major Ecological Types Minor Ecological Types Code?
Marine Systemsmarine systems
Freshwater and Estuarine lakes, ponds, reservoirs
Aquatic Systemsrivers, streams, canals
Scrub and Chaparralcoastal bluff scrub
coastal scrub
Sonoran desert scrub
Mojavean desert scrub (incl. Joshua tree woodland)
Great Basin scrub
chenopod scrub
montane dwarf scrub
Upper Sonoran subshrub scrub
Grasslands, Vernal Pools, Meadows, and other Herb Communitiescoastal prairie
valley and foothill grassland
Great Basin grassland
vernal pool
meadow and seep
alkali playa
pebble plain
Bog and Marshbog and fen
marsh and swampD, < 5%
Riparian and Bottomland habitatriparian forest
riparian woodland
riparian scrub (incl.desert washes)D, < 5%
Woodlandcismontane woodland
piñon and juniper woodland
Sonoran thorn woodland
Forestbroadleaved upland forest
North Coast coniferous forest
closed cone coniferous forest
lower montane coniferous forest
upper montane coniferous forest
subalpine coniferous forest
Alpine Habitatsalpine boulder and rock field
alpine dwarf scrub
Amplitude (breadth): B
Distribution (highest score): D

Infested Jepson Regions

Click here for a map of Jepson regions

  • Central West
  • Great Valley
  • Northwest
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Southwest
  • Sonoran Desert