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 Japanese pepper. Young fresh leaves are known as Kinome. Dried and powdered leaves are called Sansho. All edible elements of this species deliver a lemony undercurrent to the palate. 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. Szechuan pepper trees have been reported as being pollenizers for Sanso trees, but more data is needed to confirm this.
Sansho is a beautiful and well-armed landscape specimen, with serious thorns along the trunk and branches. 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 late summer and this is not a sign of ill health. 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 6-10.
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|Japanese Pepper Tree|
Grown in 1 gal containers, our Sansho trees are pruned to about 1' tall as of October 2021, going dormant, with 1/2" caliper trunk. Smaller than photo. Full root-ball. This strain is very thorny, with wonderfully fragrant leaves redolent of citrus flowers.