Brazilian Peppers

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Brazilian peppers were brought to this state in the 1890's and advocated for use as ornamental shrubs. People loved them for their fast growth and colorful red berries commonly calling them Florida Hollies. .

Brazilian Peppers disrupt natural habits pushing out native plants and the animals that rely on them.  Floridians spend significant amounts of tax dollars to remove this exotic invader from sensitive wetlands, fish spawning waterfronts and nature preserves every year. 

As this species continues to grow and spread it destroys additional natural resources and consumes ever more taxpayer dollars.  That is why it is vital to diligently pursue the removal of this invader from private as well as public lands.

Brazilian Peppers are on the State of Florida's prohibited plant list. It is illegal to transport, sell or cultivate Brazilian Peppers anywhere in the State of Florida.

When these large shrubs or trees infest an area, they advance like armies, overwhelming everything in their paths.

They disrupt the interdependence of plants and animals crucial to their survival. Only the "invader" survives. Native plants and animals disappear.

Homeowner's Guide to Brazilian Peppers

Effects of Brazilian Peppers

  • They kill other vegetation by forming dense thickets and by chemically suppressing the growth of understory plants.
  • They cut down on kinds and total numbers of wildlife by destroying their usual food and shelter.
  • They hurt shorelines by disturbing natural fish-breeding habitat.
  • They crowd out valuable mangroves. Their shallow roots allow erosion.
  • They are members of the same family as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Any part of the plant can cause skin irritation in some.  

Brazilian Peppers

  • Grow rapidly up to 10 feet per year
  •  Re-sprout if cut down
  • Roots are difficult to dig up
  • Prolific seeds are widely distributed by birds and animals
  • Resistant to natural events like flooding, fire, and drought
  • Can grow in wet or dry soil, and are salt-tolerant
  • Florida has no natural predators to keep them under control

How To Identify Brazilian Peppers

  • Brazilian peppers (Schinus terebinthifolius) are large multi-trunk shrubs that can grow 40 feet tall.
  • They are evergreens with glossy, bright green leaves, nonleathery in texture. When crushed, the leaves smell like turpentine.
  • The leaves are "compound," meaning there are several leaflets arranged opposite each other on one stem. "Simple" leaf arrangement means one leaf on one stem.
  • Female Brazilian pepper trees produce sprays of small yellowish-white flowers in spring, followed by clusters of small red berries in late fall.

Where does it grow?

Unfortunately, Brazilian peppers grow just about anywhere and in all types of soil.  This pest plant invades residential and urban landscapes as well as undisturbed areas.   In    Florida, you can find this plant invading interstate and roadway ditches, power lines, freshwater marshes and mangrove lined shores.

Brazilian Peppers on your Property:

The most effective means of controlling Brazilian Pepper is to remove the plant and its roots when the plant is not fruiting.  However, sometimes these plants are too large to be safely removed by the property owner and professional assistance is required. Listed  below are  appropriate Brazilian Pepper control techniques.

  • Hand-pulling
    • Pull up roots of Brazilian peppers
    • Does NOT  require the use of chemicals.
  • Cut-stump:
    •  Plants should be cut as close to the ground as possible
    • Apply water-soluble herbicide immediately with a paintbrush or spray bottle to the top surface of the stump
    • Additional cut-stump and herbicide applications are required if re-sprouts occur
      • Note:   Herbicide application may require the services of a licensed professional.

Helpful Websites

FDEP Bureau of Invasive Plant Management

Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council

Florida Native Plant Society

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

University of Florida IFS County Extension office

University of Florida - Cooperative Extension Services