The Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle), or Pirul in Spanish, also known as the California Pepper Tree, is native to the Peruvian Andes and not to southern California. It is a drought-tolerant and long-lived species that has become a serious invasive weed in places like South Africa, Australia, and the United States growing from the coast to the mountains in San Diego County.
The Peruvian Pepper Tree prefers dry or moist, well-drained soil. It produces red berry-like peppers that can be dried and roasted and used as a pepper substitute. Early South Americans used these “pepper berries” in a number of ways including medicine, food, and drinks.
To see more photos of the Peruvian Pepper Tree, visit the San Diego Natural History Museum’s San Diego County Plant Atlas.
PHOTO CREDIT: John M. DiTomaso