Broad-leaf pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius)

Also known as: Brazilian pepper tree

Broad-leaf pepper tree is an invasive tree. It contains toxic resins that cause severe skin irritation in humans and animals.


How does this weed affect you?

Broad-leaf pepper tree, Schinus terebinthifolius, also known as Brazilian pepper tree, is an invasive tree. A native of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, it was originally introduced and promoted as an ornamental shrub. It is now a serious threat to Australians ecosystems, particularly in coastal regions, riparian zones and wetlands.

Broad-leaf pepper tree is a serious environmental weed and is listed on numerous regional and council environmental weed lists as a priority tree for control and definitely not to be planted.

Broad-leaf pepper tree may be poisonous to humans and animals. It contains toxic resins and is a relative of the rhus tree and poison Ivy. Some people may suffer severe itching, lesions, rashes, reddening and swelling of the face, running sores and welts associated with the sap and flowering trees. The tree is rarely eaten by livestock but is reportedly toxic to some animals and birds.

In Florida massive bird kills have been recorded from ingesting the fruit. Horses resting beneath shade trees have developed dermatitis and swollen faces with similar problems seen in some humans.

In agricultural areas it also forms dense woody stands that shade out pasture and interfere with stock watering and mustering.

It is an alternate host for a mango black spot disease and a host of witches broom diseases in citrus.

Where is it found?

Broad-leaf pepper tree is an invasive weed overseas, in Hawaii and Florida. It is also recorded as a weed in other mainland USA states, Bahamas, South Africa, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. It dominates many areas of native vegetation in Florida, the Bahamas and all the islands of Hawaii.

Current distribution in NSW extends from the Queensland border south to the mid-north Coast region. Naturalised plants are generally uncommon and most of the infestations are as yet only localised having spread from nearby cultivated trees. In south-eastern Queensland there are large naturalised populations of broad-leaf pepper tree. In Queensland dense infestations occur on waterlogged or poorly drained soils in coastal areas. At a few locations it has formed an understorey within mature stands of swamp oak and along the edges of mangrove forest. In and around Brisbane it has become quite widespread and populations have greatly increased in the last 5 years.

In northern NSW isolated borad-leaf pepper plants are found in the Tweed Council, Mullumbimby, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore, west of Casino, at Saphire Beach near Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, Nambucca Heads, and Taree areas. Since declaration in 2003 many infestations have been greatly reduced and some have even been eradicated. It has great potential to spread further in NSW.

It has been reported as spreading in National Parks and Nature Reserves in the Tweed region and in Nature Reserves in Lismore. Isolated pockets of the tree are also suspected to be present further south in coastal NSW. Broad-leaf pepper tree occurs on Council land, parks, reserves, roadsides and private property. Most infestations found can be traced back to mature cultivated trees.

Distribution map

How does it spread?

Broad-leaf pepper tree is primarily spread through seed dispersal by birds and mammals. The tree produces bright red berries that are attractive to frugivores or animals that eat fruit. Silver eyes, Figbirds, Currawongs and others are thought to disperse the seed.

Board-leaf pepper tree can also reproduce from root suckers.

Human movement through introduction of broad-leaf pepper tree as an ornamental shrub was responsible for initial spread of the weed. Observations in northern NSW suggest that most infestations have arisen from mature cultivated trees. Coordinated control programs will need to address these trees and remove them as major seed sources.

Seedlings have a high survival rate. Plants reproduce from 3 years of age and overseas they have been recorded to live for about 35 years.

Broad-leaf pepper tree has two obvious physiologically different growth phases; a reproductive growth phase in winter, with the main flowering period during autumn with a secondary smaller peak in spring and a vegetative growth phase during summer. However, flowering may occur throughout the year. Fruiting and seed dispersal occurs predominantly over winter.

Seed viability is 30-60% for up to 2 months. This high seed viability combined with effective animal dispersal contributes to its invasive nature.

What does it look like?

Broad-leaf pepper tree is a broad topped, fast growing, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree 1-6 m tall (rarely to 15m). Plants are either male or female.

Leaves are alternate, dark green, with 4-12 opposite leaflets and a terminal leaflet (leaflet at the tip). The leaves often have a slightly winged stem.

Flowers are small and greenish yellow. Female flowers are followed by clusters of green berries that turn red when ripe. Berries are 4-5 mm wide and contain a single kidney-shaped seed.

The leaves and berries have a pepper smell, especially when crushed.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Broad-leaf pepper tree is a serious environmental weed. It rapidly colonises disturbed bushland and dominates understorey vegetation. It out-competes and replaces native grasses, ground covers and shrubs, and is shade tolerant. It spreads rapidly on waterlogged or poorly drained soils, but will grow on drier land in higher rainfall areas. Broad-leaf pepper tree has been found growing in a range of habitats from mangrove forests to coastal sand dunes. Thickets of broad-leaf pepper tree also form around water holes, shading out pasture.


Author: Rod Ensbey, Regional Weed Control Coordinator, Grafton

Editing and technical review by Annie Johnson, Annette McCaffrey, Birgitte Verbeek, Bill Smith and Barry Jensen.


Anderson, T., Diatloff, G. and Panetta, D. (1998). Broadleaved pepper tree Schinus TerebinthifoliusControl in grazing situations. Proceedings of the 6th QLD Weeds Symposium pp. 178-179.

Anderson, T. and Willshere L. (1998). Broadleaved pepper tree and its control. QLD Department of Natural Resource report, Brisbane.

Csurhes, S. and Edwards, R. 91998). Potential environmental Weeds Program. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Gioeli, P. and Langeland, K. (1997). Brazilian pepper-tree control, University of Florida, Cooperative extension Service. Fact sheet SS-AGR-17.

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) website.

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Broad-leaf pepper tree can be a difficult woody weed to control. The seasonal growth phases may impact on control efficacy and will need to be considered when planning a control program.

Several forms of control, including fire, give unreliable results. During the vegetative growth phase in summer, plants have been observed to quickly regrow from the base as coppice or root suckers. The first step in a control program is to assess the weed problem and situation. You may need to consider, depending on the situation; revegetation with native species, control of other weed species that may be present (e.g. privet, camphor laurel) and follow up maintenance and treatment of the site.

Manual Control

Isolated seedlings can be removed by hand pulling or digging. This is only practical for small infestations. Cultivated large trees may be cut down and the stump dug up and removed. Care should be taken to avoid moving fruit when manually controlling mature trees.

When cutting down broad-leaf pepper trees avoid contact with the sap as allergic reactions or a rash may occur.

Herbicide Control

Herbicide control is effective using the cut stump technique, basal bark, stem injection and foliar application methods. The method used depends on the situation, tree size, access and personal preferences.

Results from research work undertaken in Queensland have shown that foliar applications are far more effective during the early fruiting stage.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spray seedlings and coppice shoots.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/scrape stem application for saplings. Stem injection application large trees and shrubs.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 2.1 L per 100 L of diesel
Comments: Basal bark application.
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 300 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Foliar spray.
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm .
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council, Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to

Reviewed 2017