Derivation of specific name
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Occurrence reported in California. Also found in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Perú and Chile. In Chile, ranges from Region I to the vicinity of Santiago (Rodríguez, Matthei and Quezada 1983 and Donoso 1983). Found in Brazil from Minas Gerais through Espirito Santo and to Rio Grande do Sul (Santos 1987). Native to the Bolivian departments of Cochabamba, La Paz, Potosí and Tarija (Killeen, Garcia and Beck 1993).
Comments: Valles secos; suelos pobres, áridos, asoleados.
Insects whose larvae eat this plant species
Life History and Behavior
Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Schinus molle
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Schinus molle
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 18
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Occurrence reported in California. Also found in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Perú and Chile. In Chile, ranges from Region I to the vicinity of Santiago (Rodríguez, Matthei and Quezada 1983 and Donoso 1983). Found in Brazil from Minas Gerais through Espirito Santo and to Rio Grande do Sul (Santos 1987). Native to the Bolivian departments of Cochabamba, La Paz, Potosí and Tarija (Killeen, Garcia and Beck 1993). Native to Ecuador where known in the dry interandean valleys (Ulloa 1993). Occurs most often in poor, dry, sunbaked soils (Brucher 1979). Occurs between 1900 and 3300 m alt. in Bolivia.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: Fruit, Beverage (alcoholic), Folk medicine, Fuelwood, Gum/resin/latex, LANDSCAPING, Cultivated ornamental, Windbreak, ESTHETIC
Production Methods: Cultivated, Wild-harvested
Comments: The berries are pulverized to make a "cooling" or weak alcoholic drink. The berries are also used to adulterate pepper. The bark exudes a valuable mastic and the plant is used for fertility control in Uruguay. The wood is used for fuel.
The name "molle" comes from the traditional Quechua term for tree ("mulli") but it is now used across many languages including Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara, to refer to this tree. Seeds of the plant are nearly ubiquitous among archaeological sites of the Central Andes that explore the Middle Horizon Period (550-1000CE); it has been postulated that this was because of the widespread production of chicha (a mildly alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the berries of the tree). The outer layer of its fruits were used by the Inca in order to produce sweet beverages, boiled syrup and gruel when mixed with maize. Products of the red berries can also be fermented into vinegar. Today, its berries are sold as pink pepper corns and often ground and blended with commercial black pepper (Piper nigrum).
Essential oils from the tree leaves are used as insect repellent and to treat ophthalmia and rheumatism. They are also anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. The bark sap can be used as a plaster for treating wounds, infections and ulcers and as an anti-inflammatory. When taken orally it acts as a diuretic.
Tree products can also be used as insecticide, and leaves, branches and fruits were traditionally placed in middens (piles of human domestic waste) to reduce invertebrate infestation. The ethanolic and hexanic extracts from the fruits and leaves have been shown to be effective at controlling several pests though there is a slight risk of toxicity to vertebrates. A study testing effects of exposure in rats found there were no lasting effects after seven days.
Studies of the impact of ethanolic fruit and leaf extracts in mice have found it's antidepressant properties roughly as effective as fluoxetine (10mg/kg, p.o.) when using the tail suspension test. Additional testing has found that these properties may be due to the presence of rutin in the ethanolic extracts.
Other products of S. molle include astringents, insect-resistant timber, tannins, yellow textile dye and mastic gum.
Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle, also known as American pepper, Peruvian peppertree, escobilla, false pepper, molle del Peru, pepper tree, peppercorn tree, Californian pepper tree, pirul and Peruvian mastic) is an evergreen tree that grows to 15 meters (50 feet). It is native to the Peruvian Andes. The bright pink fruits of Schinus molle are often sold as "pink peppercorns" although S. molle is unrelated to true pepper (Piper nigrum).
Schinus molle is a quick growing evergreen tree that grows to 15 meters (50 feet) tall and 5–10 meters (16–33 feet) wide. It is the largest of all Schinus species and potentially the longest lived. The upper branches of the tree tend to droop. The tree's pinnately compound leaves measure 8–25 cm long × 4–9 cm wide and are made up of 19-41 alternate leaflets. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants (dioecious). Flowers are small, white and borne profusely in panicles at the ends of the drooping branches. The fruit are 5–7 mm diameter round drupes with woody seeds that turn from green to red, pink or purplish, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries that can be present year-round. The rough grayish bark is twisted and drips sap. The bark, leaves and berries are aromatic when crushed.
S. molle is native to the arid zone of Northern South America and Peru's Andean deserts, and goes to Central Argentina and Central Chile. It has, however, become widely naturalized around the world where it has been planted as an ornamental and for spice production. S. molle is a drought tolerant, long-lived, hardy evergreen species that has become a serious invasive weed internationally.
In South Africa, for example, S. molle has invaded savanna and grasslands and become naturalised along drainage lines and roadsides in semi-desert. It is also invasive throughout much of Australia in a range of habitats from grasslands to dry open forest and coastal areas, as well as railway sidings and abandoned farms. In the United States, either S. molle or its close relative Schinus terebinthifolius is particularly invasive in Florida and Hawaii, and can also be found in southern Arizona, southern California, Texas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico.
Although not related to commercial pepper (Piper nigrum) the pink/red berries are sold as pink peppercorns and often blended with commercial pepper. The fruit and leaves are, however, potentially poisonous to poultry, pigs and possibly calves. Records also exist of young children who have experienced vomiting and diarrhea after eating the fruit.
Extracts of S. molle have been used as a flavor in drinks and syrups.
In traditional medicine, S. molle was used in treating a variety of wounds and infections due to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It has also been used as an antidepressant and diuretic, and for toothache, rheumatism and menstrual disorders, with recent studies in mice providing possible support for its antidepressant effects. It has also been speculated that S. molle's insecticidal properties make it a good candidate for use as an alternative to synthetic chemicals in pest control.
The leaves are also used for the natural dyeing of textiles in the Andean region. This practice dates back to pre-Columbian times.
The Inca used the sweet outer part of ripe fruit to make a drink. Berries were rubbed carefully to avoid mixing with the bitter inner parts, the mix strained and then left for a few days to produce a drink. It was also boiled down for syrup or mixed with maize to make nourishing gruel.
The tree reproduces through seed, suckers and cuttings. Seeds have a particularly hard coat and germination rates are greatly improved after seeds have passed through the gut of birds or other animals. Seeds germinate in spring, with seedlings slow growing until established.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), Taxon: Schinus molle L., United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area, retrieved 2008-07-06
- PLANTS Profile: Schinus molle L. (Peruvian peppertree), United States Department of Agriculture, retrieved 2008-07-06 (Archived by WebCite)
- Blood, Kate (2001), Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia, Mount Waverley, Victoria, Australia: CH Jerram, pp. 36–37, ISBN 0-9579086-0-1
- Goldstein, David John; Coleman, Robin Christine (2004), "Schinus molle L. (Anacardiaceae) Chicha production in the Central Andes", Economic Botany (New York, USA: Springer New York, published December 2004) 58 (4): 523–529, doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2004)058[0523:SMLACP]2.0.CO;2
- Iponga, D.M.; Milton, S.J.; Richardson, D.M. (2008), "Superiority in competition for light: A crucial attribute defining the impact of the invasive alien tree Schinus molle (Anacardiaceae) in South African savanna", Journal of Arid Environments (May 2008) 72 (5): 612–623, doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2007.10.001
- Elfers, S.C. (1988), Element Stewardship Abstract for Schinus terebinthifolius, Arlington, Virginia, United States: The Nature Conservancy (published 1988-10-13), retrieved 2008-07-06
- Ferreroa, Adriana; Alejandra, Minettib; Cristina, Brasa; Zanettia, Noelia (2007), "Acute and subacute toxicity evaluation of ethanolic extract from fruits of Schinus molle in rats", Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2007-09-25) 113 (3): 441–447, doi:10.1016/j.jep.2007.06.019, PMID 17716846
- Machadoa, Daniele G.; Kastera, Manuella P.; Binfaréa, Ricardo W.; Diasc, Munique; Santosb, Adair R.S.; Pizzolattic, Moacir G.; Brighentec, Inês M.C.; Rodrigues, Ana Lúcia S. (2007), "Antidepressant-like effect of the extract from leaves of Schinus molle L. in mice: Evidence for the involvement of the monoaminergic system", Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry (Elsevier, published 2007-03-30) 31 (2): 421–428, doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2006.11.004, PMID 17182164
- Daniele G. Machado, Luis E.B. Bettio, Mauricio P. Cunha, Adair R.S. Santos, Moacir G. Pizzolatti, Inês M.C. Brighente, and Ana Lúcia S. Rodrigues (2008). "Antidepressant-like effect of rutin isolated from the ethanolic extract from Schinus molle L. in mice: Evidence for the involvement of the serotonergic and noradrenergic systems." Eur. J' Pharmacol. 587 163-168.
- Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco, Cusco 2005 (Quechua_Spanish dictionary)
- Coe, Sophie D. (1994), America's first cuisines, University of Texas Press, pp. 186–187, ISBN 0-292-71159-X
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