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What is Florida Holly?

For beekeepers and bees, the Florida Holly is an excellent resource, but its rightful place is hotly debated.

While it is commonly known as Florida Holly, Schinus terebinthifolius is neither from Florida nor holly. The plant was brought to the state in the early 1800s from South America to be cultivated and sold as an ornamental plant. S. terebinthifolius is a member of the Anacardiaceae family, which includes poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and poisonwood. Sensitive people may develop severe dermatitis if their bare skin comes into contact with the sap or resins of S. terebinthifolius. Many people also report respiratory problems when the plant is in bloom.

In other countries, S. terebinthifolius is often grown for culinary purposes. When dried, the berries are the Pink Peppercorns in products such as McCormick Spice's "Peppercorn Mélange." When crushed, the seed releases a sweet, volatile, pine-like aroma faintly smelling like piperine oil, the critical component in true black Pepper. The flavor of Pink Peppercorns is sweet, warm, fresh, and camphorous with a lingering astringency but little heat. Bees love the plant's flowers and make honey from their nectar. Raccoons and 'possums eat the fruit of the plant and contribute to its spread by passing the seeds in their scat. Fruit-eating birds such as the migratory American Robin also adore the fruit and can seed broad areas by passing the seeds in their guano. It is reported that certain birds and other wildlife during certain times of the year adore this plant's berries for their narcotic effects.

This vigorous, globe-like, dense plant can be a shrub or tree. It is typically 15 to 22 feet tall and ten to 15 feet across. The compound leaves feature three to 13 leaflets.

Male and female flowers occur on separate plants. These emerge in long, feathery, axillary panicles from Spring through Fall, with the heaviest blooming occurring late Summer. The female blossoms are yellow-green.

This species is an excellent, reliable, consistent, major honey plants in Florida when it comes to bees. Yielding lots of nectar, bees much love the flowers. The flow is heaviest when temperatures are elevated. These can bring 50 pounds of honey per colony.

The honey is rather dark, usually some shade of amber. It has a strong, somewhat spicy flavor and spicy aroma. In Florida, Florida Holly honey is popular among local consumers.

If you are interested in trying Florida Holly Honey for yourself, you can buy World Honey Market Florida Holly Honey from our shop.

Disclaimer: Brazilian-pepper tree, Christmasberry tree, Florida Holly. This shrub/tree is technically an exotic pest plant in Florida. It is encouraged for you not plant it or promote its growth: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection regulates it under 62C-52.011 Prohibited Aquatic Plants. It is a Class I Prohibited Aquatic Plant, which means "Under no circumstances will this species be permitted for possession, collection, transportation, cultivation, and importation except as provided in Rule 62C-52.004, F.A.C) as it produces a dense forest canopy that shades out all other foliage and which in turn creates such a poor habitat for native wildlife species that almost nothing other than the Brazilian Pepper itself will grow or live in the areas it colonizes. There are more than 700,000 acres in Florida are covered by this "invasive" species.

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