Anacardiaceae (cashew family) Schinus

Schinus terebinthifolia Brazilian pepper tree

South America
Pinnate leaves and fruit clusters of Schinus terebinthifolia, Bowdoin Street greenbelt. Sairus Patel, 17 Nov 2019
Schinus terebinthifolia on Alvarado Row. Sairus Patel, 26 Sep 2023

This very handsome evergreen tree, quite different from the better known Peruvian pepper tree, has compound leaves that have 7 to 11 shiny green leaflets that are paler below and show a pleasing pattern of veins when held up to the light. They are an inch or so long and have occasional small teeth. The midrib, but not the leafstalk, has noticeable wings. When crushed, the leaves have an interesting smell. The clusters of small fruits consist of red papery globes loosely enclosing a single seed. For mention of Brazilian pepper in the Everglades, see Paperbark Notes.

Several once-fine specimens on the south side of Bowdoin Street between Campus Drive East and Pine Hill Road, having been cut back or frozen back, have resprouted with many trunks. A small tree with a single trunk stands in front of 721 Alvarado Row. A multitrunk specimen is between 4055 and 4073 Ben Lomond Drive, Palo Alto, next to the fence.

Published in 1820 as S. terebinthifolius, its species name was changed to have the -a ending after a 2015 paper in Phytotaxa determined Schinus to be feminine. Hopefully this ends a long dispute about its gender.

Name derivation: Schinus – Greek name for mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), which it resembles; terebinthifolia – having leaves like Pistacia terebinthus.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Alvarado Row location added; species name updated to terebinthifolia; explanatory note added, ref. Zona, S. (2015), The correct gender of Schinus (Anacardiaceae), Phytotaxa 222(1):76 (Oct 2023, SP).