Ask Chris: Fault and Pepper

Chris Nichols goes in search of the first pepper tree.

Q: I’ve noticed a lot of peppertrees in Southern California. Are they a native species?

A: The pink-berried foreigners are from the Andes, brought by a Peruvian sailor and first planted at the Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Ocean-side in 1830. They became a popular street tree (although the state Invasive Plant Council considers them a pest). A grove started in 1901 still shades downtown Moorpark, and that Oceanside original is the centerpiece of the monks’ Meditation Garden.