I could identify a lot of different trees as a child because we had so many varieties of fruit trees. Easy to know their names. But there was one tree that bore no edible fruit – and it was still my favorite. The California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle).
We had two huge old pepper trees in the large chicken pens. Their branches hung to the ground providing a fine play area and hiding place in the shade. The big kids built tree houses in them which we younger folks eventually inherited – as soon as we could finally climb the thick branches.
We were mean to those trees – pounding nails into them to secure the boards or hang some trinket. And the tree bled – a thick, sticky white sap. The smell of the sap and the leaves today takes me back 60 years to those tree forts. Regrettably there are no photos of the structures but I can picture every detail in my mind.
In town, in Lindo Park there were big pepper trees in the 1950s – old then and some are still there. Many times we played in those trees while the big boys played Little League.
Pepper trees are old, welcoming friends.