An evergreen tree to 60’H, but most often in the 20-45’ range depending on local conditions. Bark color ranges from maple blonde to walnut brown. It releases terpenes that kill off competing plants which can somewhat limit understory planting. Oblong, smooth-edged leaves have a peppery aroma, and used as a cooking spice. They sometimes turn a golden color during the autumn in northern California. Small, white, yellow or yellowish green flowers open in late winter and early spring. The fruit is a round green berry lightly spotted with yellow and purple. It is one of the few garden trees that tolerates serpentine or clay soils.
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