Invasive plants: A popular but harmful tree

The Brazilian pepper tree is popular in gardens, but it poses a risk to native plants.

Coastal ecosystems are important but delicate parts of the natural abundance of South Africa.

Unfortunately, the popularity of some invasive plants – particularly in people’s gardens – leads to the spread of species that harm indigenous plant life.

Also read: Invasive plants: The plant that wages chemical warfare

One of these common garden favourites is the Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius), also known as Brazilian holly, Christmas berry tree, pepper hedge or South American pepper.

Originally from Brazil, this invasive species is now a problem in KZN, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.

According to Dolphin Coast Conservancy chairwoman Di Jones, the plants are quite common on the Dolphin Coast as farmers used to plant them as boundary and wind breaks.

“You will see a whole wall of them on the left of the N2, approaching and after the Tongaat Toll Plaza,” Jones said.

“There is also a small forest of them on the bend opposite Siggi’s in Salt Rock, where they have taken over almost all of the wetland that used to be there.”

It is an an evergreen shrub or tree growing up to 6m high with wide-spreading, horizontal branches. The dark green leaves have prominent, pale veins above and are paler and smoother below.

Small, creamy-white flowers appear from September to March. The tree’s fruits are round, bright red and poisonous while the sap is a skin irritant and may even affect the respiratory tract.

The pepper tree’s seeds are mostly dispersed by birds, which like the fleshy fruit.

>>  Expect to find the latest trends in Health, Wellness and Beauty in Ballito.

>> Meet the top players in the North Coast property industry. See our Property People feature.

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  AUTHOR
Allan Troskie
Journalist

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