Drimys lanceolata

Common Name: pepper tree 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Winteraceae
Native Range: Australia
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow to creamy white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy, Edible


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10 where it is best grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers part shade. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Site in sheltered locations. May be winter hardy to Zone 7 with protection. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Drimys lanceolata, commonly known as mountain pepper, is a medium sized red-stemmed, dense, evergreen shrub that is native to woodlands and cool temperate rainforests in the southeastern parts of the Commonwealth of Australia (Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania). In Tasmania, it commonly grows from sea level to alpine regions. This shrub typically matures to 6-10’ tall and to 4-8’ wide over time. Showy red stems are clad with contrasting aromatic, leathery, lanceolate to narrow-elliptic leaves (to 5” long) which are deep glossy green above and pale green beneath. Pale yellow to creamy white flowers bloom in April-May. Male flowers usually have 5-8 petals whereas female flowers usually have 4 petals. Flowers on female plants, if pollinated, are followed by spherical black berries (to 1/3” diameter) which ripen in early fall.

Leaves and berries are currently used in Australian cuisine for adding spicy, peppery flavor to a variety of foods. Both leaves and berries (sometimes called pepperberries) contain hot-tasting compounds (polygodials). When dried, the pepperberries become grindable peppercorns which serve as a pepper substitute. The leaves produce a pleasant aroma when crushed and have a hot, spicy taste when chewed.

Nomenclature on this plant is somewhat unresolved at this point. Drimys lanceolata is synonymous with and sometimes listed as Tasmannia lanceolata. A number of experts currently advocate moving Drimys lanceolata into the genus Tasmannia as Tasmannia lanceolata.

Genus name comes from the Greek word drymis meaning acrid in reference to the taste of the bark in some species.

Specific epithet is in reference to the lance-shaped leaves.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Beds or borders. Hedge. Containers.