Schinus terebinthifolius

Common Name(s)

Christmas berry, Brazilian pepper tree


Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi



Brief Description

Evergreen bushy shrub up to 3m high. Leaves are pinnate with 9-13 subsessile (without leaf stalk) leaflets, terminal leaflet to 8 by 2.5 cm, deep shining green, entire or with fine teeth, conspicuous very pale veins and midrib. Inflorescence is a pannicle of white flowers 3-4 mm across. The fruit is a globose bright red berry 4-6 mm across.

Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Scattered in Auckland also records from Northland and Waikato.


Currently in waste areas, but a problem weed of wetland and water body margins overseas.


Leaves pinnate, alternate, 8 - 17 cm long. Pinnae 4-6 (11) rounded and often toothed lateral leaflets, arranged in pairs along a narrowly winged leaf axis with a single, terminal leaflet. Leaves pungent when crushed with a peppery smell. Flowers in many branched panicles, 2-11 cm long, in upper leaf axils. Dioecious flowers borne on pedicels, 1 mm long with 5 small, green, triangular sepals with ciliate margins; 5 small, white, glabrous, ovate petals; 10 stamens concentrically arranged in 2 series of 5, the outer series being longer; a lobed disc at the base of the stamens; and a single-chambered, or unilocular, ovary with 3 short styles. However, in male flowers, the ovary,or pistillode, is non-functional, and in female flowers, the staminodes are sterile. On female trees, flowering is followed by the production of bright red, fleshy, spherical drupes 5-6mm in diameter, containing a single seed.

Similar Taxa

Another Schinus species, pepper tree (S. molle) is commonly grown and occasionally naturalises. It can be distinguished by the drooping branchlets and narrower leaflets


Late summer

Flower Colours




Year Naturalised



Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina

Reason for Introduction

Ornamental tree

Control Techniques

Not controlled in New Zealand.

Life Cycle and Dispersal

Bird and mammal dispersed seed, suckering from planted trees.


Serious weed in subtropical areas, may be too cold for it to be a serious problem in NZ. Alleopathic. Casts deep shade and excludes understorey. Dane Panetta considers this species to be a major ecological weed in Australia and reccomends NZ consider it so as well (October 1996).


Factsheet [repared by Paul Champion and Deborah Hofstra (NIWA).

References and further reading

GISD database (http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=22)

Webb, C.J.; Sykes, W.R.; Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand Volume 4: Naturalised pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicotyledons. Botany Division, DSIR, Christchurch.

Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P.J.; Cameron, E.K.; Champion, P.D. (2002). Checklist of dicotyledons, gymnosperms and pteridophytes naturalised or casual in New Zealand: additional records 1999-2000. New Zealand Journal of Botany 40: 155-174.

This page last updated on 21 Aug 2013