Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peruvian peppertree

Here's a few shots of Peruvian peppertree, or Schinus molle, at LA's Getty Center.

I saw this tree all over southern California and loved its graceful, fine texture. The tiniest breeze seemed to make the entire tree sway. I was lucky to catch this tree as its highly ornamental fruit were starting to turn, too.

... since the specimens in the next photo are fruitless, it's evident that Schinus is a dioecious plant.

Dioecious is Greek for "two households" and refers to the fact that individual plants of this species are either female or male. Either the male or female tree will flower, but the productive parts of the flowers themselves are unisexual. Pollen from a male tree needs to migrate (typically by wind) to a tree with female flowers. Here on the east coast, perhaps the most well-known dioecious plants are some species of Ilex (holly) and, of course, Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo).

Schinus is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes, and though the fruit do not produce actual pepper, they red berries are often dried and added to pepper mixes for purely aesthetic purposes.

The bark -- exfoliating in thick, stony-and-beige-colored chunks -- added an additional dynamic to the tree; when a wind would push the leaves aside, you would see a flash of brightness reflect off the trunk.

(I will do a post one day this week about the overall garden & landscape design of the Getty, but wanted to dive back into the week with a tree.)

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