Broad-leafed pepper

The foliage on a mature broad-leafed pepper tree can reach all the way to the ground

The foliage on a mature broad-leafed pepper tree can reach all the way to the ground

According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, broad-leafed (or broad-leaved) pepper trees (Schinus terebinthifolius) are a Class 3 declared pest plant under Queensland law.

A native to South America, they have been introduced into domestic gardens and escaped into the wild, invading coastal dunes, wetlands and stream banks.

These trees are not only a pest in themselves, they can harbour ‘witches broom disease‘ that affects citrus, and mango black spot disease.

The original stand of broad-leafed pepper trees and Alexander palms at the end of McConachie Court, both are pest species that spread into surrounding bushland.

The original stand of broad-leafed pepper trees and Alexandra palms at the end of McConachie Court, both are pest species that spread into surrounding bushland.

And, in the Dawn Road Reserve, the broad-leafed peppers are proving persistent (hard to eradicate). Where mature specimens have been lopped, a month or so later you can see new shoots from the low stump of the downed tree. This regrowth and the stump will need further work in due course with appropriate treatments administered by experts.

While many mature trees were removed, the now-open area is flooding sunlight on ground where seed of the broad-leafed pepper tree had fallen and already this fast-growing invasive pest is regrowing in the precinct and will need removal in the near future.

The persistent broad-leafed pepper tree was cleared from the site, but the stumps of some plants have already begun to re-shoot while fast-growing new plants have sprung up from seeds dropped from the removed trees

The persistent broad-leafed pepper tree was cleared from the Dawn Road Reserve’s special revegetation site, however, a month or so later the stumps of some plants are already re-shooting while fast-growing new peppers have sprung up from seeds dropped from the removed trees. Pics: Trina McLellan

Scientific name Schinus terebinthifolius
Description
  • Large spreading trees up to 10m high and broad.
  • Leaves consist of 5-9 dark-green leaflets, 4-12 opposite pairs.
  • Small whitish flowers grow at the end of branches.
  • Bunches of glossy round red fruits 6mm across.
  • Berries are 4-5mm wide and contain one seed.
  • Not all trees bear fruit.
  • Leaves and berries have a pepper smell when crushed.
Habitat
  • Grows well in coastal dune areas, wetlands and along stream banks.
Distribution
  • Native to Brazil.
  • Found in South East Queensland and mid-north Coast region of New South Wales in many habitats from coastal dunes to mangroves.
Life cycle
  • Reproduces from three years old.
  • Can live up to 35 years.
  • Flowers mainly in autumn, however flowering can occur throughout the year.
Spread
  • Birds and animals are the main method of dispersal of berries.
Impacts Economic

  • Out-competes and replaces native grasses used in grazing.

Environmental

  • Forms dense thickets that can choke out native plants.
  • Establishes in disturbed bushland.
  • Competes with ground covers and shrubs, and is shade tolerant.
  • Rapidly spreads in waterlogged or poorly drained soils.

Social

  • Contains toxic resins that can affect human and animal health.
Prevention The best form of weed control is prevention. Treat weed infestations when they are small – do not allow weeds to establish.Steps for weed prevention:

  • Check your property regularly for suspect plants.
  • Control new infestations before they spread and become a major problem.
  • Don’t dump weeds and garden waste in bush or parkland.
  • Know the weed status of any products or materials you are receiving. This includes fodder, grain, gravel, machinery, mulch, packing material, sand, soil, stock, vehicles and water.
  • Clean your equipment, clothing, shoes, vehicles and machinery when leaving natural habitats and camping areas.
  • Use a cleandown facility to blow, vacuum or wash dirt and seeds from vehicles, machinery and tools.
  • Request a weed hygiene declaration from your suppliers. This will ensure vehicles and machinery are clean before entering your property.
Control Physical control

  • Trees should be removed in winter.
  • Hand-pull or chip out young plants.
  • Care should be taken if wood chopping is used to produce mulch especially is the trees have seed.
  • If the tree is chopped down it may regrow from suckers for up to 18 months. You can also cut trees 2 inches below the soil, chip away the bark and nail a tin plate down over the stump.

Herbicide control

  • Herbicides are available using foliar application, basal bark and cut stump methods.

See the broadleaved pepper tree fact sheet (PDF, 948.0KB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • There is no biological control agent available in Australia for this broadleaved pepper tree.
Declaration details
  • A declared Class 3 species under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.
  • Supply or sale is prohibited.
  • Landowners are required by law to keep their land free of this pest if in or adjacent to an environmentally significant area.

Source: Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

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Images: Trina McLellan

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