Schinus molle

Schinus molle

The false pepper (Schinus molle L.) is an evergreen, dioecious tree, which can reach 5-7 meters.

Systematics –
The false pepper, from the systematic point of view, belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Subclass Rosidae, Order Sapindales, Family Anacardiaceae and therefore to the Genus Schinus and to the Species S. molle.

Etymology –
The term Schinus comes from the Greek σχῖνος schĩnos lentisco: for the belonging to the same family, the vague resemblance of the fruits and the presence of resins; the soft epithet derives from: soft, elastic, supple, delicate, soft, tender, for its supple and hanging posture.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Schinus molle is a tree native to the highlands of Bolivia, Peru and Chile. It is a plant that has become naturalized all over the world where it has been planted, known for its strong wood used for saddles. It is a species that tends to be invasive in all parts of the world where it was introduced.

Description –
The Schinus molle is highly appreciated for its shape, similar to that of the willow, with the flexuous branches that harmoniously almost reach the ground and for the fragrant essence that characterizes every part of the plant. Its stem can reach up to 40 cm in diameter.
The leaves are aromatic and lanceolate, pendulous, alternate and pinnate, up to 30 cm in length.
In the summer (from June to August at higher altitudes) it produces panicles of small whitish flowers, which bloom at the leaf axil; in autumn the flowers give way to the fruits: small round, bright red berries, very similar to pepper.

Cultivation –
False pepper is a species that grows even in poor soils, and does not require fertilization; for these reasons it is considered a rustic species. However it prefers light soils not impregnated with water. Reproduction is by seed, by suckers and cuttings. The seeds sprout in the spring, with the seedlings growing slowly until they have been established. The seeds germinate easily under the tree in the existing mother tree litter, hundreds at once and can be easily transplanted. The Schinus molle is often used as a tree for street furniture, along the avenues and in parks even in direct sunlight, as is obvious given the geographical origins of the plant. For details of the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
In traditional medicine, Schinus molle was used to treat wounds and infections, thanks to its antiseptic power. In the times it has also been used as an antidepressant and diuretic, and to alleviate toothache, rheumatism and menstrual pain. It seems that the Schinus molle contains substances that make it a good candidate as an alternative to synthetic pesticides.
The leaves of the false pepper are also used for the natural dyeing of fabrics in the Andean region. This practice dates back to pre-Columbian times. The Inca used oil from its leaves in early mummification practices to preserve and embalm their dead.
There is significant archaeological evidence that the fruits of Schinus molle were widely used in the central Andes around 550-1000 AD to produce the chicha, a fermented alcoholic beverage.
The wood of the false pepper was part of the sources of supply of the Spanish colonies for the saddles; as ornamental and for the production of spices, while the berries, which are numerous, have a very aromatic and intense smell and from the bark if cracked a latex is poured.

Preparation Mode –
Because the berries have a similar aroma to that of pepper they are used as spices; the pink pepper indeed. They can be consumed only in small quantities because they contain slightly toxic substances. It is also used in Creole: a mixture of white pepper, black pepper, green pepper, pink pepper and pimento.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

 




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