Answer: Your California Pepper Tree is Schinus, with fast growth to 25'-40' high. The trunks of old trees are gnarled with knots and burls, giving it character. It has a spreading nature and looks more like a shrub than a tree in youth. Some of the lowest branches will drop off as the tree grows, but you can help it along by cutting off those that touch the ground. Then, to keep the trunk uncluttered, rub out any new buds (potential new branches) that develop along the trunk. Many gardeners use Schinus as hedging, rather than trees, because of their bushy habit. Ultimately the choice to remove or leave the lowest limbs is up to you. The tree takes well to pruning and thrives in poor soils with little attention, so cutting back unwanted growth will not harm it.
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