Pick a Pepper Tree
I'm hoping this is a pepper tree. Larry Moore Park is full of them right now. The reddish-pink fruits which hang in clusters from branches full of bright green leaves almost make them look like decorated Christmas trees, except for their shape. Supposedly two kinds of pepper trees are widely grown in California – the Peruvian Pepper (Schinus molle) and the Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolis). The trees in the park almost seem to be a cross between the two. Both are from the sumac family, just like poison sumac, and some people can contract dermatitis from the leaves.
The Peruvian Pepper (also known as the California Pepper) is known for its gnarled truck, but I wasn't looking at the trunk when I took these photos. There were other plants that blocked my view of the trunk. I'll have to specifically look for this next time I visit the park. Its long leafy branches hang downward and have narrow pointed leaves. Their branches almost look like vines. Their fruits are pink or coral. Sometimes the fruits, which are aromatic and spicy, are sold as pink peppercorns, but too many can be toxic or cause gastric distress, and some people are allergic to them.
Above is the pepper tree in the park
The Brazilian Pepper has shorter branches and the leaves are more oval shaped. I believe the fruits are also a brighter red than those on the pepper trees in the park. But the more I look at the photos on Google, the more I think the park trees are closer to the Brazilian Pepper trees in leaf and branch shape. It just may be that it's not late enough in the season for the “peppercorns” to deepen in color yet. Eating the fruits can cause the same problems as eating those of the Peruvian Pepper tree.
The fruits of both trees are spread by the birds, who love them. That's why they sometimes grow like weeds. Be careful where you plant them because the roots grow close to the soil surface and really spread out. Keep them as far from sidewalks, plumbing, curbs,and buildings as you can to prevent damage to your property.
If anyone believes I'm wrong about this being a pepper tree and can give me a definite identification, I'd love to know it. Somehow the trees I see don't always neatly match the photos I see in books or online. I think they just may hybridize to disguise their true identity.
Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
Image Credit » I took the photo and edited it.