On the Fence about Pepper Tree

hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)October 4, 2013

Hi everyone,

I have a gorgeous pepper tree in the middle of my big old back yard. It is beautifully pruned into lacy weeping branches and it covers the yard practically from side to side- 60 feet! The trunk is so big around two people cannot reach around it. It cools the whole yard, including the chicken coop. There are ferns and other shade loving plants under its canopy.

The tree is probably 45 years old now. It's planted in the center of a lawn so it gets lots of water. The other two peppers that were planted at the same time are dead and gone now. This one has a weepy spot about four feet up, a hollow spot around the other side of the trunk and a major branch as big around as a Volkswagen that creaks in the breeze, scaring the beejeesus out of me. It lost a major limb two years ago- a limb that cost $1400 to cut up and haul away. It costs well over a thousand bucks to thin it out, which we do about once every three or four years.

I cannot imagine my yard without it. It makes the place look lush and beautiful year round. I think it is nearing the end of its life, though, and it is so expensive to prune. What would you do?

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I hear ya. Peppers are such lovely big trees but the big limbs aren't strong. We have a similarly large 50+ year old one in our front yard, and some other ones. I think you keep trimming it every few years, maybe put a guy wire on that big lateral branch if there's a good anchor point for it. Our big pepper had several really big galls on it and, on the advice of our favorite arborist, we trimmed them off and treated the scars with a specialty product called Gall-X.

And, keep your homeowner's insurance paid up. Yes been there with that, a huge limb from a neighbor's pepper tree fell through the roof of a structure on our property last year. Missed crushing one of our cars by a whisker.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 3:04AM
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I think it is worth the cost of a consulting ISA arborist to give you advice on your trees future. Al

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 8:56AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Removing a mature tree like that is always a tough decision. That said, you could probably get a nice sized 30" box tree installed for what it costs to prune that pepper.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:13AM
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My neighborhood has trees like this in front of every house, just gorgeous. They are all getting cut down, about one every other month, as those big limbs crash to the ground- there have been two crushed cars, a crushed garage, a crushed plumbers van and attendant worksite, and one near tragedy when the limb came down inches away from a pregnant lady and her three year old child out for a walk.
I would consult a genuine arborist with a sub specialty in these trees, see what that suggest to preserve or shore up your beauty, or if they think it should come out in a controlled manner.
Best of luck,

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:43AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Yes, spend a little money to talk to a real pro and see what your options are.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 4:24PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

That is a beautiful pepper tree! Born and bred in So CA, and that is the ONE tree I would never plant, only because it's messy.

Yours is gorgeous! Most people let the leaves hang to the ground, right?

Hard decision for you. I think the photo you posted speaks magnificent tree! Not all Pepper trees are so magnificent.

If you cut it down, you will seriously change the growing conditions for you and your neighbors. I do know this, because I planted a shade yard, and it was drop dead, and then the new neighbors slayed the tree, and ruined my micro-climate!! Seriously!

But if it's a safety issue, you must do what's best! Sucks!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:17PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I have had a pro out once, and he said prune it every two years, don't let water hit the trunk.

I think we will spend the 1500-1800 to have it pruned again- this time we will have them head back some of the leaders to take more weight off of the scariest branches. I may have a main branch removed as well, but we'll see what the arborist says this time. As Nil said- for the cost of pruning this tree I could buy a a few good sized replacements, but mature trees are one of the things that sets this neighborhood apart. So it stays for another few years. Thank you for your advice.
ps. I'll take lots of pictures of it this year.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 1:55AM
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This is a tough one. At my old grade school, we had some really old peppers that grew on the farmhouse property in Irvine. We used to spend every day under those trees and a really big one had a great big 2 level deck built into it. Those trees were like homes for us. We played there, ate lunch there, did our school work there. We made friends and watched boys and dreamed under those trees. I went back and only two were left. It was a hard thing to see. Every time I see a beautiful pepper, I just go back to those happy times. I want to stand in the branches for hours.

But you have to think of what it costs and the risks of keeping it. When the one at the Mission in Capistrano was removed I was very sad. This is a really hard thing and I feel for you.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Hi Renee, as I recall you are located someplace near us (western SFV area). In case you want another arborist's opinion, we use a very experienced arborist who is based in Simi. Bob Wallace / Tree Life Concern / 805-577-6612.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 2:17AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

They grow really fast, seems to me. The neighbor across the road planted some found seedlings out in front of his house about 5 years ago and they are already nearing 25 feet.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 11:03AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Thanks for the referral, sbmw.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 12:43AM
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