Back to Nature (Published on - Dec. 15, 2004)
Things aren’t always as they seem
To look at those bright luscious, clusters of red berries set against Christmas green leaves, you would suppose that this incredible attractive plant could cause little harm. It’s easy to imagine ribboned wreaths of interwoven berries festively hung on the front door. How beautiful the Christmas gardens would appear bedecked in bright holly-like berries. The birds love it. Small mammals love it, so what could be the harm of planting a few Brazilian pepper plants in your garden, you ask?

Things aren’t always as they seem. The Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is one of the most aggressive of the invasive nonindigenous plants in Florida. According to Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, the Invasive Species Task Force and the University of Florida even the green berries will ripen after the branch is cut. The Brazilian Pepper has invaded our neighborhoods, parks, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests and pinelands.

It thrives on any type of soil. It can be found along roadsides, farmer’s fields, and ditches, anywhere that land has been disturbed or planted, as hiding in your garden. Brazilian pepper trees endure fire, flood, and drought, and they are salt tolerant. A master at aggressive invasion, it spreads by seed distribution carried by birds and mammals; it will sprout from trunks and roots. Its provocative beauty is its very disguise.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

Since pagan times humanity has sought to gather in the long dark hours of winter and celebrate each other and families. Songs were sung under a full moon. Hands held and dancers danced. Food exchanged along with hugs and stories by the glow of a fire. Somehow the night disappeared in loving warmth. As we enter this holiday season of hype and glitter isn’t it extremely difficult to prevent ourselves from becoming a victim of provocative sales pitches and promises of promoters of themselves?

A season that’s supposed to bring us closer and give us the chance to share in one another’s presence and affection oft times seems to turn into a flurry of shopping binges, traffic snarls, exhausted children, harried parents, and elderly family members sitting at home watching it all from their TV. We don’t want to disappoint. We don’t want to be misled. Most decent human beings inherently desire to behave with dignity, kindness, love and honor.

Step back. Take a long look around. Pause for a single, deep breath. Be honest with yourself. What is really important? You’re one step away from a consumer’s fantasy or maybe you’re one step away from recognizing the disguises of false promises and gain.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

This season as if through the innocence of a child’s eye take one moment and just one honest step back to reality, back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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