Pepper Tree, the popular name on the Pacific coast for schinus molle, a South American tree much cultivated in California and elsewhere. The genus schinus (the Greek name for the mastic tree, and applied to this related genus) comprises about a dozen tropical American trees and shrubs, and belongs to the ana-cardiacece, the cashew-nut family, of which the sumaehs are our most familiar examples. The pepper tree or false pepper grows 20 ft. or more high, with alternate unequally pinnate leaves, which have about 10 pairs of« serrate leaflets and a longer terminal one; the flowers are dioecious, in axillary or terminal panicles; stamens 10; ovary one; the fruit is a berry of the size of a small pea, having a highly polished skin of a bright rose- color, enclosing a succulent portion within which is a stony one-seeded nut, the surface of which is marked by six furrows containing oil. All parts of the tree are aromatic, being pervaded by a resinous liquid; their odor, especially that of the fruit, as well as taste, is almost precisely like-that of black pepper.
If the leaves of the tree are broken and the fragments thrown upon water, singularly life-like movements take place; the fragments appear to have the power of motion, and travel about the surface of the water by a series of jerks in a most interesting and amusing manner. This phenomenon is due to the sudden expulsion of the resinous oil from the tissues of the leaf, which reacting against the water propels the fragment of leaf; the forcing out of the oil is apparently due to the action of water upon the cells containing it, as it is noticed that the air in the vicinity of the trees is always filled with their peculiar fragrance immediately after a shower. In Peru the tree is called molle or mulli; in that country the root is used medicinally, and a sort of resin which exudes from the stems is chewed to improve the gums; it is also purgative; the berries are used to make a sort of wine. In California the tree makes a handsome head, and its fragrance and the beauty of its fruit commend it for planting.
Pepper Tree (Schinus molle).