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What is the Difference Between Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Trees?

  • January 8, 2024
  • 6 min read
What is the Difference Between Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Trees?

In this article, we’re going to jump right into comparing the differences between the Peruvian vs the Brazilian pepper trees. Are they one in the same? Is one superior to the other in terms of ease of tree care and maintenance? And can you eat the fruit from both species or is one inedible? 

These are all important questions and we will address these and more in this blog post. Read on and let’s tell you everything you need to know…

What are Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Trees?

First of all, what are the Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees? Here’s some quick trivia to give you a bit of background: 

  • The Peruvian pepper tree (Schinus Molle / Pink pepper tree) and Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus Terebinthifolius / Broadleaved pepper tree) are both members of the Anacardiaceae family.
  • Despite their similar names, they are distinct species with different origins and characteristics (which we will cover shortly). 
  • The Peruvian pepper tree is native to the Andean region of South America, while the Brazilian pepper tree is native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Peruvian pepper tree

When Were These Trees First Introduced to Australia?

As their names suggest, both the Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees are not native to Australia. So, when were they first introduced? 

The Peruvian pepper tree was first introduced to Australia in the 1800s as an ornamental garden tree. This was due to the strong trade links between Australia and South America. 

Similarly, the Brazilian pepper tree was also introduced to Australia around the same time as a botanical curiosity and later became naturalised in some regions – specifically Adelaide with its alkaline-rich soils. 

What Does a Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Tree Look Like?

Now, what do both trees look like? Do they have any distinct features that can help you easily tell them apart? Let’s take a closer look: 

  • Peruvian Pepper Tree: The plant produces abundant small white flowers that grow in clusters at the tips of the gracefully hanging branches. Its fruits are round drupes, containing woody seeds. These berries undergo a captivating transformation from green to shades of red, pink, or purplish hues, creating a vibrant spectacle. Clusters of these berries, numbering in the hundreds, can be found throughout the year. The bark of the plant has a rough, greyish appearance, with a twisted form that occasionally releases droplets of sap. When crushed, the bark, leaves, and berries emit a delightful aromatic fragrance.
  • Brazilian Pepper Tree: The plant features elongated leaves that are arranged alternately. These leaves are pinnately compound, consisting of multiple leaflets. The leaflets themselves are roughly oval in shape and veins with a yellowish hue. The plant is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female individuals. It produces an abundance of small white flowers that grow in clusters along the branches. The fruit of the plant takes the form of drupes, which are carried in dense clusters containing hundreds of fruits. 

How Tall Do Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Trees Grow?

Next, let’s look at how tall both trees tend to grow, on average: 

  • The Peruvian pepper tree can grow up to 50 feet in height, creating a substantial and wide-spreading canopy.
  • Brazilian pepper trees can reach similar heights, ranging from 25 to 40 feet, depending on the growing conditions.

How Long Do Both Trees Live, on Average? Peruvian vs. Brazilian Pepper Tree.

So, how long can you expect both trees to live? 

  • The Peruvian pepper tree has an average lifespan of 20 to 50 years, depending on various factors such as climate and care. However, they have been known to live from 50 to 150 years. 
  • Brazilian pepper trees can live for roughly 20 to 30 years under optimal conditions.
Peruvian pepper

Are the Berries on Peruvian and Brazilian Pepper Trees Safe to Eat?

Now onto the more important question, you’ve likely been wondering: Can you eat the fruits on both pepper trees? 

  • While the Peruvian pepper tree produces berries that are considered safe to eat, consuming the fruit from both trees is generally not recommended. 
  • In fact, the berries of the Brazilian pepper tree are considered invasive and can cause skin irritation in some individuals.

Which Tree is Best to Plant on Your Property? Peruvian vs. Brazilian Pepper Tree.

Choosing between the Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees depends on your specific needs and preferences. Let’s look at some considerations: 

  • Peruvian pepper tree is often favoured for its larger size and wide-spreading canopy, providing ample shade.
  • Brazilian pepper tree, on the other hand, is known for its delicate foliage and can be a suitable choice for smaller spaces.

Again, deciding between the two all comes down to your personal preferences. For example, if you are looking for a tree that is going to last much longer, then a Peruvian pepper tree is the recommended alternative. 

Red berries of Brazilian Pepper Tree, an invasive plant in Florida. Also called the Florida Holly. Schinus terebinthifolius
Brazilian pepper

How to Care for Your Pepper Trees

Let’s take a look at some quick and easy tips for caring for your Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees: 

  • Both Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees are relatively low-maintenance once they have been successfully established.
  • They prefer well-draining soil and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, including drought.
  • Regular tree pruning can help maintain their shape and prevent them from becoming overgrown. It can also ensure that any dead or dying branches are successfully removed before they snap off or become pestiferous. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Peruvian and Brazilian pepper trees differ significantly in their origins, appearance, growth habits, and berry edibility. 

When deciding which tree to plant on your property, consider the amount of space you have available, the desired size, and any specific characteristics that align with your preferences. 

In any case, with proper care and attention, either tree can add beauty and curiosity to your home’s landscape.

We hope you’ve found this article handy and now have a much better idea as to how both trees differ from one another.

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