Zanthoxylum piperitum. Sansho, also known as the Japanese Pepper tree or Japanese prickly ash, is famous for the pungent oils found in the leaves, roots and bark, as well as the unique flavors of the pericarp. Those seed casings are roasted and ground to form Szechuan pepper, a main ingredient in five spice powder. Young fresh leaves are known as Kinome. Dried and powdered leaves are called Sansho. If you've ever experienced a tingling/numbness in your mouth during an Asian meal, it's due to the addition of some form of pepper tree in the food.
Medicinal attributes abound. The roots in particular have numerous stimulant properties, and the leaves are the most aromatic you’ll ever find, with a fresh citrus scent when bruised. There’s an American species of Sansho found along fence lines in the Southeast, where locals have long chewed on branches to relieve toothaches, hence the nickname ‘tooth-ache tree’ for Zanthoxylum americanum.
The small green Sansho flowers are dioecious, so you need both a female and male tree to produce the pepper berries. Our plants are not sexed, so you may not get the berries even if you grow two trees. Sansho leaves look like many other plants in the ash family, with compound pinnate leaves that turn a lovely yellow in the Fall. Leaves may turn yellow even in summer and this is not a sign of ill health.
Sansho is a beautiful and well-armed landscape specimen, with serious thorns along the trunk and branches. Ultimate height is about 15’ in warmer areas, less in colder regions. Deciduous. Slightly acid to alkaline soil, full sun to dappled shade in areas with intense sun. Moist, well-draining soil. Roots do not like to be disturbed, so handle rootball with care when transplanting. Zones 7-10.
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|Japanese Pepper Tree|
Grown in 1 gal containers, our new crop of Sansho trees is about 2' tall with a narrow caliper main trunk, little branching yet. This strain is very thorny, with wonderfully fragrant leaves redolent of citrus flowers. Plants are dormant, narrow caliper trunk, a few branches, as of February 2015.