A large evergreen shrub tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) indigenous to South and Central America. The Brazilian pepper has narrow, spiky leaves, thick reddish branches and produce small reddish berry-like fruits that appear in late fall.
All parts of this tree are used for medicinal purposes and it has an ancient history of use that dates back to Chilean Amerindians. The pepper-flavored berries are also used in vinegars, syrups, and many beverages.
The Brazilian pepper has also been declared an invasive exotic in Florida. It was introduced in the 1850s for decoration. Until the 1980s, it was sold by nurseries throughout central and southern Florida. Nicknamed the "Florida Holly" because of its red berries which appear around Christmas time, the tree was a welcome addition to many homeowners' lawns due to its rapid growth and ability to adapt to a variety of soil conditions.
But the Brazilian pepper is invasive. It thrives in disturbed areas, out-competes the native vegetation by the use of toxins in its leaves, provides poor habitat for wildlife and can cause skin rashes for some people. It is also tough to kill requiring treatment with herbicide on the stump within 30 seconds of being cut down.