California Pepper Tree-- Pro or Con?

User Forum Topic
Submitted by CricketOnTheHearth on July 9, 2009 - 2:43pm

My housemate's room is in its own wing on the ground floor in the back of the house. The sun beats down on it and by the end of the day when he gets home it's roasting in there.

The backyard is currently nekkid but there is dirt a few yards south of his room where I could plant a California Pepper Tree. In a few years it would grow big enough to shade his wing.

The pluses I see with a pepper tree:
-They can be pruned to assume a pretty, willow-like umbrella-shape (with the fine leaves they look a lot like willows anyway).
-They grow fast
-They are drought-hardy and apparently don't need a lot of water

Has anybody had one of these and encountered any minuses? Any downsides to pepper trees besides the millions of little fallen leaves (which we won't care about)?

Submitted by flu on July 9, 2009 - 2:49pm.

* Grows very fast: IE needs frequent pruning
* Root issues: considered invasive
* Difficult to grow things underneath tree, because it sucks up a lot of nutrient in the surrounding

Submitted by nostradamus on July 9, 2009 - 2:48pm.

There are a bunch of those down in the canyon near me (Penasquitos Canyon) and they look great. I see woodpeckers on them, I don't know if that would bother you or if you would even get them as well.

Submitted by meadandale on July 9, 2009 - 2:57pm.

They make a friggin mess everywhere with the little red berries. I used to park my truck under one and the whole bed was filled with cast offs from the tree: leaves and berries.

They are kind of like Jacaranda....pretty to look at but I wouldn't want one in my yard.

Submitted by GoUSC on July 9, 2009 - 3:32pm.

Terrible terrible tree. DO NOT PLANT. They make a complete mess, the roots are evasive etc. etc.

I can get you a list of good trees if you want but I need to be at the office. Let me know...

Submitted by UCGal on July 9, 2009 - 3:44pm.

I have to agree with mead - they are messy messy messy. Forget ever walking barefoot in your backyard... the little berries will dig into your feet.

Submitted by CBad on July 9, 2009 - 4:11pm.

There are different kinds of peppers. We have both the Brazilian and the California. Overall I like the California better. The messy red berries tend to happen more with the Brazilian than the California. There can be red berries on the California but there aren't as much. The Brazilian does look beautiful when it is full of red berries though. The Brazilian also has suckers that pop up from the root system constantly that you either have to live with or keep under control. We ended up having to do hardscape to deal with a lot of those suckers and that took care of most of the problem except for the ones directly on or right around the tree. They are both considered messy trees but honestly it depends where you put it whether that's a big deal for you or not. It also depends what kind of landscaping you have. Our Californias drops lot of little leaves but they are in the back and drop them into bark...big deal.

Apparently some posters here don't like them. But look around, they are gorgeous and obviously used a lot in CA. My neighbor has a 30+ year old California pepper that is absolutely to die for gorgeous. I have no problem with 1/4 of that tree hanging over my fence and yes, the little leaves drop into my yard and I don't care. The beauty outweighs the little mess. People don't plant enough trees in CA neighborhoods anymore and frankly it makes the neighborhood ugly, LOL! There are a lot of CA houses that aren't that great looking but put them on a tree lined street and the street looks beautiful.

Submitted by CricketOnTheHearth on July 9, 2009 - 4:21pm.

GoUSC--
I'd love to see your list of good trees.

TIA

Submitted by briansd1 on July 9, 2009 - 4:34pm.

GoUSC wrote:

I can get you a list of good trees if you want but I need to be at the office. Let me know...

I would love a list. I'm helping some relatives with landscaping. Now is a good time to do that as the labor is cheap and you would be helping the economy.

I'd be interested in a tree that can be planted in the middle of a patio for shade. But something that does not have invasive root that will destroy the patio later (that would be expensive).

I was once at a house that had a tree in the middle of the patio with thick pointy leaves. I think that was a holly tree but I'm not sure how tall they grow.

Submitted by GoUSC on July 9, 2009 - 4:39pm.

Here are some...

Bottle Tree
Foothill Palo Verde
Australian Willow
Bradford Flowering Pear
Brisbane Box
American Sweet Gum
Desert Willow
California Sycamore
Holly Oak
Non Fruit-Bearing Olive
African Sumac
Madrone
Orchid Tree
Gold Medallion Tree
Crape Myrtle (very popular)
Aristocrat Flowering Pear

These are all lower water trees that I have used on many of our projects (I do development) that we like. If you need the actual specific names I can provide those as well but this should be a good start for you. My personal favorite is the non-flowering olive tree but that doesn't go with everything. Some of these trees do flower and drop their leaves but most are fairly easy to maintain. Hope this helps!

MARK

Submitted by briansd1 on July 9, 2009 - 4:42pm.

CBad wrote:
People don't plant enough trees in CA neighborhoods anymore and frankly it makes the neighborhood ugly, LOL! There are a lot of CA houses that aren't that great looking but put them on a tree lined street and the street looks beautiful.

That's very true. That's why neighborhoods back East look so much nicer.

I prefer houses on streets that have parking strips (the small portion of landscape between the sidewalk and the street) planted with trees.

A nicely landscaped house with mature trees is better than the plain lawns we generally see in San Diego.

Submitted by svelte on July 9, 2009 - 4:46pm.

Good advice here.

I planted a California Pepper about 10 feet from my prior house and within 5 years it was HUGE (taller than the 2 story house) and the roots were pushing up the sidewalk. It killed the grass underneath it and there were numerous surface roots. I eventually had to have it removed.

I still love the way they look, but have decided that the only way I will plant another is if I have a 1+ acre lot and have an spot about 40 ft wide that (a) I don't want anything except the Calif Pepper to grow in, and (b) want to mask something from my view because as I said...it got HUGE!!

A good choice in this part of the country for 1st floor window shade close to a house is a fruitless plum...it doesn't get too big, roots stay deep, and it loses its leaves in the winter (when you want the tree bare so the sun can come in the window!).

Submitted by Aecetia on July 9, 2009 - 4:53pm.

Great tree house tree because of its branches and it grows fast, but you should have a couple of acres to keep it away from anything else. I had ficus because of their beauty, but ended up having to murder them when the pool went in due to very invasive roots. There is supposed to be some kind of root guard thing you can plant the tree in to keep the roots from spreading, but I would really do a lot of checking before planting anything. We ended up with an Australian willow which is non-invasive, drought tolerant, etc., but it is an extremely slow grower.
However, there is very little leaf debris and you can plant under it.

Submitted by flu on July 9, 2009 - 5:01pm.

Aecetia wrote:
Great tree house tree because of its branches and it grows fast, but you should have a couple of acres to keep it away from anything else. I had ficus because of their beauty, but ended up having to murder them when the pool went in due to very invasive roots. There is supposed to be some kind of root guard thing you can plant the tree in to keep the roots from spreading, but I would really do a lot of checking before planting anything. We ended up with an Australian willow which is non-invasive, drought tolerant, etc., but it is an extremely slow grower.
However, there is very little leaf debris and you can plant under it.

In my experience, root guards don't really work. They just prolong the issues slightly longer. It's basically a sheeting that you can install along the side that is suppose to containing the root growth (thin piece of plastic and other matterial....)Eventually, a invasive tree figures out a way to get under side the root guard, unless you happen to install one really really really deep. I'm in the process of having to deal with about 4 trees that will eventually have issues...

GoUSC, thanks for the list...I'll consider them too. I was contemplating changing the landscaping and going complely with palms...But I'm finding out palms are incredibly expensive if you buy a full grown tree..Plus, they don't seem as sturdy as I'd like.

Submitted by AN on July 9, 2009 - 5:04pm.

flu wrote:
I'll consider them too. I was contemplating changing the landscaping and going complely with palms...But I'm finding out palms are incredibly expensive if you buy a full grown tree..Plus, they don't seem as sturdy as I'd like.

Yes they are expensive, mainly due to the fact that it take them forever to grow. If you plan to stay in the house for awhile, you can always buy the small one and grow it yourself. I have a neighbor who have palms all around his house and he planted them from seed, ~10 years ago. They're about 2 stories high now.

Submitted by afx114 on July 9, 2009 - 5:19pm.

I have one right outside my window here and they are messy and smelly, though the shade they provide is nice. I try to avoid parking my car underneath it because it makes a nasty mess. I've also read that their droppings are poisonous to the ground below, making it hard to grow additional plants in the surrounding areas.

Submitted by CA renter on July 9, 2009 - 5:36pm.

briansd1 wrote:
CBad wrote:
People don't plant enough trees in CA neighborhoods anymore and frankly it makes the neighborhood ugly, LOL! There are a lot of CA houses that aren't that great looking but put them on a tree lined street and the street looks beautiful.

That's very true. That's why neighborhoods back East look so much nicer.

I prefer houses on streets that have parking strips (the small portion of landscape between the sidewalk and the street) planted with trees.

A nicely landscaped house with mature trees is better than the plain lawns we generally see in San Diego.

Good posts, both of you! :)

We grew up in the San Fernando Valley along the Ventura Blvd. corridor, and our neighborhoods had gorgeous trees that touched over the middle of the street. People up there generally respected old-growth trees, and would build around them and deal with the plumbing issues every year just so they could keep the trees.

Trees make everything look beautiful, they provide shade in the summertime, and they help clean up the environment. I will never understand the people who cut down beautiful, large trees.

When I moved to San Diego, it was rather depressing. As someone said in a recent article in Reader's Digest regarding trees (paraphrasing): "I don't want to live on a street that looks like the runway at LAX." Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Submitted by nostradamus on July 9, 2009 - 8:22pm.

I would prefer the trees/bushes nature has provided for the local area. Bringing dreams of east coast trees out to the hot, dry west is too much. I also think whoever sold people on the idea of a lush, green, fertilizer-hungry, aeration-needy, thirsty grass lawn was a helluva salesman for this drought-prone region. Use local flora!

Submitted by paramount on July 9, 2009 - 8:48pm.

I have several California Pepper trees; and I am quite fond of them as long as they are pruned.

Very tough tree, hard to kill.

Not good in high wind areas since they have shallow root systems. I never water directly over the tree, rather I water on the perimeter to force the roots to grow out and provide more stability.

Like humans, only the females are really messy as they drop berries that smell like pepper (which I like) - or is that males?

Submitted by briansd1 on July 9, 2009 - 11:00pm.

paramount wrote:

Like humans, only the females are really messy as they drop berries that smell like pepper (which I like) - or is that males?

Females have berries, males make pollen. Males cause allergies.

Submitted by briansd1 on July 9, 2009 - 11:34pm.

nostradamus wrote:
I would prefer the trees/bushes nature has provided for the local area. Bringing dreams of east coast trees out to the hot, dry west is too much.

You make a very good point. That's why the landscaping that I'm advising my relatives on has no lawn. No bird-of-paradise tropical type look. A lot of hardscape and steps up and down beds for visual effects.

I think that the Coast Live
Oak
is a good tree to plant on the side of the road. When they mature, they will provide a beautiful canopy over the street. You can prune/train them.

It takes more work and landscape design to create a climate appropriate garden.

Patios and courtyard are a great way to go. You can have a low wall around the patio to delimit the "outdoor living room". Beyond that you can have arid vegetation.

http://www.calflora.net/trees/index.html

Submitted by Aecetia on July 9, 2009 - 11:55pm.

Very nice information Brian. A friend gave me a couple of baby oaks sprouted from acorns that she found growing in the back country somewhere between Julian and Ramona before the Cedar fire. I grew them and now they are about six feet tall in a pot. I did not put them in the ground because I may end up selling the house and I want to take them with me. I think they are scrub oaks. I agree, you can prune them and I think they are great, but you have to keep them out of the way. The leaves have sharp points. There is a native lilac that is also very drought tolerant and an attractive shrub for border landscaping. Obviously, you cannot always use natives, but there are some Australian and South African plants that also work well in the San Diego area because of the similar climate.

Submitted by XBoxBoy on July 10, 2009 - 9:43am.

One advantage of the California Pepper is that it makes a decent lumber. Very similar to Elm.

What about a Black Acacia tree? I hear they are good shade trees, and their lumber is extraordinary.

XBoxBoy

Submitted by JustLurking on July 10, 2009 - 9:59am.

I have 4 California Peppers along one side of my long driveway. They were put in about 8 years ago and are at least 30-40 feet tall now. The roots have spread a bit and are visible above the ground, but there hasn't been any issue with the adjacent low wall or the driveway itself. I have 2 more elsewhere in the front yard. It doesn't seem too messy to me. But then again, I also have a huge beautiful jacaranda in my front yard that I love. Right now it drops a tons of purple flowers on my lawn and I think it looks very pretty.

I also have 4 fruitless olives. They are beautiful trees, but don't really provide much shade. I have a couple of mature ficus trees that do provide quite a bit of shade. They are not messy and don't require frequent pruning.

Crape Myrtle are nice if you want a deciduous tree. This is good if you want to shade a southern exposure in the summer, but want the light and heat in the winter.

I love trees. We have more than an acre and more than 20 mature trees. Most trees don't require a lot of water once they are well established.

Submitted by nostradamus on July 10, 2009 - 10:47am.

That's a great link Brian, lots of wonderful California-native trees there. All kinds of oaks, firs, maples, sycamores, etc. that provide plenty of shade.

My condo complex is in the process of replacing grass/turf with more appropriate landscaping for the region. I'm very happy about this.

Submitted by CricketOnTheHearth on July 10, 2009 - 12:16pm.

Thanks, one and all, for your tree advice.

Thanks, GoUSC, for your list.
I will look through it and try to find the one with the right combination of features I am looking for. (So far, tall crape myrtle like we have at work is a leading contender)

Submitted by scott on July 10, 2009 - 4:47pm.

I rented a place with one.
great shade, but they drop tons of leaves, attract bees and they send up shoots from the roots that keep coming back.

Submitted by paramount on July 10, 2009 - 5:08pm.

I've heard they attract bees, but I've had my California Pepper Trees for years and have not had that problem at all.

Submitted by svelte on July 10, 2009 - 10:47pm.

CricketOnTheHearth wrote:

I will look through it and try to find the one with the right combination of features I am looking for. (So far, tall crape myrtle like we have at work is a leading contender)

Crape Myrtle is a very slow grower.

Submitted by joebaduba on July 11, 2009 - 7:56am.

Hate them Pepper Trees.

It will wreck the soil - turn it into dust.

I recommend a Tipu. Very shady.

Submitted by LesBaer45 on July 11, 2009 - 12:32pm.

GoUSC wrote:
Here are some...

Bottle Tree
Foothill Palo Verde
Australian Willow
Bradford Flowering Pear
Brisbane Box
American Sweet Gum
Desert Willow
California Sycamore
Holly Oak
Non Fruit-Bearing Olive
African Sumac
Madrone
Orchid Tree
Gold Medallion Tree
Crape Myrtle (very popular)
Aristocrat Flowering Pear

These are all lower water trees that I have used on many of our projects (I do development) that we like. If you need the actual specific names I can provide those as well but this should be a good start for you. My personal favorite is the non-flowering olive tree but that doesn't go with everything. Some of these trees do flower and drop their leaves but most are fairly easy to maintain. Hope this helps!

MARK

Bradford Pear? Here in the south, they are known for breaking off or snapping over in any kind of high wind. Lots of places used to plant them as a border tree or a liner for a drive or walk. They grow rather fast, but then the first high wind and it's snappo city.

American Sweet Gum? A nice looking tree but I thought it liked wetter areas. Plus those "balls" are a mess. I realize there are "non-fruit" varities but they are (were) tough to find.

The rest sound like reasonable choices.

I'm surprised no one mentioned a dogwood tree. There are some that can tolerate a lot of sun and they can be 'managed' very easily to provide shade and not overpower a house.

* I am not a trained arborist nor do I play one on TV.

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