The Brazilian pepper tree is really common in countries like Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and South America. The tree can also be found in Africa, the USA and other tropical and sub-tropical countries. This plant is a known invasive, and in this article we will talk about Brazilian pepper tree removal.
In some countries the tree is invasive and governments are trying to get rid of these trees. In other countries, this is a tree with lots of health and medical benefits that are getting used on a daily basis. We are going to look at both these sides of the Brazilian pepper tree.
Brazilian pepper tree description
Brazilian pepper tree is also known as the Schinus terebinthifolia. It has some other genetic names as well. Some of these names are S. bituminosus, S. occidentalis, and Sarcotheca bahiensis. The tree has some common names that people are using to refer to the tree. These names are:
- Rose pepper
- Broadleaved pepper tree
- Florida holly
- False pepper
How to Identify the Brazilian pepper tree
The Brazilian pepper tree grows anything between 10-30 ft (4-10 meter) in height. It is known as a shrubby tree with leaves that are narrow and spikey.
The tree has small flowers that can flower throughout the year, in some countries. The flowers have a great smell, that people will recognize. After flowering, the berries will appear. The berries are small, flesh-colored berries that are known as edible fruit. All parts of the tree are high in oil and essential oils.
This plant starts to produce fruits after 3 years, usually from December to February. The Brazilian pepper tree can live up to 35 years.
Habitat of the Brazilian pepper tree
The Brazilian pepper tree was brought into south Florida for ornamental purposes (Christmas decorations) in 1898, although there is evidence of its presence 50 years earlier. Many have tagged this plant as an “invasive” species and noxious weed because of how much it has spread.
It is widely found in the native countries, but also found in other countries as well. The thing that is making this trees growth so successful, is the fact that it can grow in different circumstances. The tree can grow successfully in swamps and in dunes. No matter where they are planted, they will grow.
This is also because they can be found anywhere in bushes and parks. It will grow where the seeds land, even if this is in a country that isn’t native to the plant.
The Brazilian pepper tree also grows well in waterfronts, lawns, pastures, dry lakes and groves.
Is the plant poisonous?
At the moment, there aren’t any reports of the plant being poisonous to humans or to animals. The berries are safe to eat. There are people that can get an allergic reaction to the plant when they touch the plant. But, this is the worst that can happen.
This doesn’t mean that you can just go and eat the berries. There are other trees that look similar, but have poisonous berries.
Birds and other animals love the berries on the tree. And, this is another reason why these trees are getting spread so easily.
This is an interesting part of the Brazilian pepper tree. In the non-native countries, people and the government are trying to get rid of the trees as fast as possible. For them, this is an invasive plant that needs to be removed.
In the native countries, especially in Brazil, this pepper tree is getting used for many medicinal purposes. All the parts of the plant are being used for medication. And, this is the main reason why they don’t try to get rid of the trees.
The main medical use of the pepper tree is the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities that the tree has for medical problems like wounds and ulcers, bruises, diarrhea, chills, tumors, and arthritis. The red fruit is being used to manufacture a balm to treat wounds and ulcers. Studies are underway to test the correct medical use for the pepper tree in Brazil.
There are people that are stating that consuming the berries or making a tea from the leaves will clean your body from toxins and ensures that you are staying strong and healthy. Again, this isn’t proved yet and should not be done at home. Medical studies are still underway.
Why is the Brazilian pepper tree invasive?
The Brazilian pepper tree is classified as a Category I pest plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Because of how aggressive and noxious this plant is, it has become unwanted by many farmers and gardeners. In Florida alone, there are over 700,000 acres of land covered by unwanted Brazilian peppertrees.
Efforts to remove it from the United States have included the use of the herbicides triclopyr and glyphosate. Brazilian pepper tree is hard to control because it produces basal shoots if the trunk is cut.
While it is a pest to some, it can be a medicinal source to others.
People in the countries native to the tree are using the tree to their benefits. For them, this is a native tree. For others, where the tree was introduced later, it is overpowering their native plants, killing it. And, this is why it is an invasive plant, even with so many health benefits.
The Brazilian pepper tree has the ability to stop or suppress other plants from growing beside it by releasing allelopathic chemicals where it grows. And, it is spreading a lot faster than other plants in their immediate area.
How does Brazilian pepper tree Spread?
Because of the edible berries, the tree is getting spread quite easily. The berries are the seeds of the Brazilian pepper tree. And, if birds are picking a branch full of berries, some fall to the ground. The tree can basically grow in any place, so where the berry lands, a new tree will grow.
Birds and other animals are the major medium for transportation. They help move the seeds of this tree to new locations when they are done eating the outer layers.
Brazilian Pepper Tree Removal Methods
Because of the growing rate of the Brazilian pepper tree, you should consider removing the tree as soon as you spot it in your yard. Especially when you are living in the countries that aren’t native to the Brazilian pepper tree.
Not only will the plant grow a lot faster than the other plants in your yard, it will kill the plants around the tree. Removing it will not only save your yard, but will also be saving the native plants in your country.
Just like most introduced plants in foreign countries, removing a plant with berries is tricky. You need to make sure that you don’t spread the berries while you are removing the plant. When you need to remove a tree of 30 ft high, then it becomes more than just tricky.
This is why you should make sure that you are removing the Brazilian pepper tree correctly. You want to get every single root and berry out so that it can’t regrow or spread to another area. Knowing how to remove it correctly is essential, and it might require you to hire a professional to remove the tree for you to avoid damage to your and your neighbor’s property.
Manual removal of the Brazilian pepper tree
Manual removal of the Brazilian pepper tree is possible. And, if you are doing it correctly, you will be able to prevent it from returning. The secret is that you need to get rid of the complete tree, roots included. And, you need to make sure that you don’t leave any berries behind.
The best time to remove the tree manually is when there are no flowers or berries on the tree. This way it can’t spread to other areas. The trickiest part of removing the Brazilian pepper tree is to remove the trunk and the roots around the trunk. It can regrow easily if you leave any roots behind. This is why many people are making use of a professional that has the right equipment for removing a tree with roots successfully.
Chemical removal of the Brazilian pepper tree
It is best to wait until there aren’t any berries or flowers on the tree. Herbicides like Assol or any other glyphosate-based herbicide can be used after taking the tree down to a bit above ground level. Immediately (within a hour) apply your herbicide to the stomp. Make sure to use a spray bottle to apply the chemical.
Another chemical method of removal is the application of herbicides directly to the bark of the tree and leaving it to sit for weeks. It should be applied 12-15 inches above the ground. This method is called the Basal Bark Treatment.
You can also consider the foliar treatment. This usually involves applying herbicides directly on the leaves of the tree. The probability of this treatment being a success is not high.
The Hack and Squirt: This chemical method can also be used for the Brazilian pepper tree. It is a chemical process as well. It involves making holes in the tree, and then spray on the exposed area till it is wet.
Some recommended herbicides in general include; Hyvar (bromacil), Karmex (diuron), and Velpar (hexazinone) which are root absorbed, photosynthesis-blocking agents; these are the slowest acting and have the most residual activity (along with Tordon). Banvel-720 (dicamba plus 2,4D amine) and Tordon 101R (picloram plus 2, 4-D amine) are foliage absorbed, hormonal herbicides. Ammate X (ammonium-sulfate), and Roundup (glyphosphate).
After cutting down the tree, there may be new regrowth of the Brazilian pepper tree after 18 months. At this point, it is recommend using manual removal methods to get these little pests out of your soil and prevent them from growing again.
Things you should avoid
- Don’t cut down the tree while it is bearing fruits. This is to avoid the fruits from falling to the ground and germinating again. So try to hold on till after reproductive season.
- Do not expose your bare skin to the inner bark of the cut Brazilian pepper tree. Make sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, long trousers, safety goggles and boots when performing this activity.
In countries where the Brazilian pepper tree is native, this tree has many health benefits.
In the countries where the Brazilian pepper tree was introduced later, this is an invasive plant that needs to be removed as fast as possible. This is a tree that is growing faster than other native plants.
Removing the Brazilian pepper tree can be difficult. Especially, if the tree is already fully grown. Then, it might be better to hire a professional tree remover to get rid of the tree completely.