Native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay
Introduction to Florida: 1840s (Ornamental)
The family Anacardiaceae contains poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Schinus terebinthifolia, or Brazilian peppertree. People sensitive to poison ivy, oak or sumac may also be allergic to Brazilian peppertree because it also has the potential to cause dermatitis to those with sensitive skin. Some people have also expressed respiratory problems associated with its bloom period.
This shrub/tree is one of the most aggressive and wide-spread invasive plants in Florida, with over 700,000 acres infested. Brazilian peppertree produces a dense canopy that shades out all other plants and provides a very poor habitat for native species. This species invades aquatic as well as terrestrial habitats, greatly reducing the biodiversity of natural communities. There were two separate introductions to Florida from two regions of Brazil, leading to hybridization of the two populations in Florida and hybrid vigor that contributes to its hardiness. Seed viability is 30-60% and seeds are only viable for up to 6 months after dispersal. Seedling survival rate is quite high in the 70-100% range. Primary methods of seed dispersal are wildlife (especially birds but many mammals consume the fruits as well) and waterways.
Avoid cultivating, transplanting, or promoting proliferation of Brazilian peppertree. Care should also be exercised to avoid seed spread through disposal of cut trees. Due to its invasive nature, it is placed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under section 62C-52.011 as a Class I -“Prohibited Aquatic Plant.” This law prohibits sale and or movement of this species.
A well established native cover or plant community is a way to suppress Brazilian peppertree. However, the rapid growth and high germination rates make Brazilian pepper-tree difficult to suppress from a cultural weed management standpoint.
When utilizing aggressive mechanical methods, the entire plant, particularly the root system, should be removed. Roots ¼ inch in diameter and larger are able to resprout and produce new plants, so follow-up from this type of control method will be necessary. Seeds cannot tolerate heat and will not germinate following a fire, but the plant has the potential to resprout after a fire from roots.
Two biological control agents are currently approved for use for Brazilian peppertree control in Florida, Pseudophilothrips ichini (Brazilian peppertree thrips) and Calophya latiforceps (Yellow Brazilian peppertree leaf galler). Both insects attack the growing shoots of Brazilian peppertree and can impact the growth of the plant. Research has shown that these insects are specific to Brazilian peppertree and are safe to use in Florida to control this invasive weed. Releases of the Brazilian peppertree thrips is ongoing and releases of the yellow Brazilian peppertree leaf galler are planned for the future.