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Piperaceae  - Pepper Family

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Piperaceae  Giseke 1792

The Piperaceae is a family of 5 genera and 1400 species of perennial herbs with both succulent and non-succulent members. The genus Peperomia is probably the most familiar, as the less-succulent Peperomias are widely grown as houseplants and includes some choice succulent species with fleshy windowed leaves and a handful with tubers.
The genus Piper is not of great horticultural merit but includes plants that are the source of economically important spices and mild narcotics. The berries of the climbing vine Piper nigrum are made into black pepper. Piper ornatum has attractively patterned foliage.
The Pepper Family Piperaceae does not include bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) and chilli peppers. These belong to the Nightshade Family (Solanaceae).


Peperomia- Ruiz & Pavón (1794)

Peperomia fraseri
Peperomia fraseri
Peperomia caperata variegata
Peperomia caperata variegata

About a thousand species of Peperomias have been described, mainly from tropical South America although a few (17) are found in Africa. Many of these plants are perennial epiphytes growing on rotten logs and they have thick stems and fleshy leaves, some with leaf windows. The palmate pattern of leaf veins is marked out in some species as furrows in the leaves or as coloured lines. Most Peperomias have tiny flowers which are packed into a characteristic greenish or brown conical spike (spadix) like an inverted catkin. A few species have more attractive flowers such as the white, scented clusters of spikes produced by Peperomia fraseri from Ecuador. (upper right)
Many species are borderline succulent, often with succulent petioles, and a few of these (e.g. Peperomia caperata) are popular foliage house plants. A variety of cultivars of Peperomia caperata with attractively-marked foliage (lower right) are widely available through the horticultural trade. Peperomia incana (Felted Peperomia) is unusual in having leaves covered with fine silvery hairs.
The succulent Peperomia species are not as commonly available as they deserve to be, even from specialist nurseries. This probably reflects their low profile in cactus and succulent society shows and plant sales and their unassuming flower spikes.
The genus include several species which form tubers. Although these are said to be difficult in cultivation this is also true of many widely grown succulent plants. Peperomia campylotropa is a deciduous tuber-forming plant from the cooler regions of Mexico. After flowering, the aerial growth dies away and the tuber can survive long periods of drought. Peperomia macrorhiza from Peru and Peperomia monticola from Mexico form a large caudex and could be of interest to collectors of caudiciform plants.
Cultivation: Peperomias are best cultivated in a light, well drained compost containing plenty of humus and do well in shallow containers. Coming from tropical rain-forest habitats, they love warm humid conditions and most need a minimum temperature of 50 - 55°F. However, the fleshy stems and foliage can be prone to rotting and Peperomias should be watered sparingly from below (especially in winter) using soft water, avoiding wetting the crown of the plant. In warm climates Peperomias can be grown outside as ground cover or as epiphytes on tree trunks, but beware of slugs and snails that enjoy the succulent foliage.
Apart from a tendecy to rot if over-watered, Peperomias also can suffer from ringspot which is manifested as distorted foliage with chlorotic or necrotic rings on the leaves. This disease may be caused by cucumber mosaic virus and the only treatment is to destroy infected material.
Peperomias may be propagated from leaf or tip cuttings, although the variegated and succulent species grow mainly from tip cuttings. A selection of compact Peperomias can sometimes be found among dwarf plants intended for bottle gardens and terrariums. Peperomias are inoffensive to animals.

Peperomia abyssinica

Peperomia abyssinica  Miquel 1845
Syn. Peperomia goetzeana, Peperomia stuhlmannii
Name: from Abysinnia (Ethiopia) (North Africa) 
Young leaves are more succulent than older leaves.
Native to moss-covered rocky outcrops and rainforests of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, sometimes growing as an epiphyte.

Peperomia acuminata

Peperomia acuminata  Ruiz & Pavón 1798
Name: Latin acuminata = gradually tapering to a point referring to the leaves 
Thick scrambling green stems, rooting at their nodes where they touch the ground, with alternate, oval thickened, waxy green leaves with pointed tips.
Native to Peru. Often seen as a variegated form as shown here.

Peperomia caperata luna red
Peperomia caperata
cv. luna red (AGM)

Peperomia caperata variegata
Peperomia caperata variegata

Peperomia caperata Yuncker 1958
Name: Latin caperata = wrinkled 
The green deeply veined heart-shaped leaves on red petioles of the wild plant have largely been displaced in cultivation by numerous selected forms with red and bronze leaves. During the Summer, narrow white flower spikes are produced.
Native to the South American rainforest, probably Brazil, but described from a cultivated specimen. Although well known before 1958, there was no valid botanical description.
Not at all hardy but does well as a window-ledge plant, providing it isn't over-watered, and is quite widely cultivated.

Peperomia clusiifolia

Peperomia clusiifolia  (Jacquin) Hooker 1829 (Red Edge Peperomia)
Name: with leaves similar to genus Clusia, named for Charles de l'Écluse (Latinized: Carolus Clusius) (1526 - 1609) a Dutch botanist 
This species has thick reddened stems and fleshy, waxy dark green leaves with a red margin. Flowers are yellow or brown narrow spikes.
Native to the West Indies and Venezuela. Numerous selected named forms are in circulation. An easy, tolerant houseplant.

Peperomia clusiifolia variegata
Peperomia clusiifolia variegata
Peperomia clusiifolia tricolour
P. clusiifolia var. tricolour

Peperomia clusiifolia var. tricolor has thick stems and fleshy, waxy green, pink and silver variegated leaves. A very showy plant.
Peperomia clusiifolia variegata has thick stems and fleshy, waxy green and silver variegated leaves.

Peperomia dahlstedtii

Peperomia dahlstedtii  A.C.P. de Candolle 1923 (Vining Peperomia)
Named for: Gustav Adolf Hugo Dahlstedt (1856 - 1934) Swedish botanist 
The reddish-brown stems of this prostrate Peperomia bear dark-green ovate succulent leaves that are striped longitudinally with a lighter green along their veins.
Native to Central and South America.

Peperomia dolabriformis

Peperomia dolabriformis  Kunth 1815 (Prayer Peperomia)
Name: Latin dolabratus = shaped like an axe, referring to the leaves 
Very succulent stems produce fleshy light-green leaves, shaped like segments of a sphere with darker-green windows along their curved upper surface. The slender, branching inflorescence is green.
Native to tropical forests of Peru, growing as an epiphyte on rotten logs and leaf litter on the forest floor. As a forest-floor dweller this very succulent Peperomia grows best in bright diffuse light but not full sun. Not hard to grow but avoid over-watering.

Peperomia fenzlei

Peperomia fenzlei  Regel 1879
Named for: Eduard Fenzl (1808 - 1879) Austrian botanist 
Of unknown origin. Described from a cultivated plant.

Peperomia ferreyrae

Peperomia ferreyrae  Yuncker 1956
Named for: Alejandro Huerta Ramón Ferreyra (1910 - 2005) Peruvian botanist  
Green stems bearing long, narrow light green leaves with a darker-green window along their curved upper surface.
Native to tropical forests of Peru. As a forest-floor dweller this very succulent Peperomia grows best in bright diffuse light but not full sun.
Left: Grown and photographed by Robert Swan.

Peperomia fraseri

Peperomia fraseri  A.C.P. de Candolle 1866   Syn. Peperomia resediflora Linden & André
Named for: John Fraser (1750-1811); Scottish nurseryman, plant collector & botanist 
This Peperomia has upright stems bearing large rounded to heart-shaped glossy green leaves with incised venation. The inflorescence consists of a 2ft reddish, branching peduncle topped with slightly fragrant, white bottle-brush flowers.
Native to rainforests of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. A striking Peperomia that is worth growing for its flowers.

Peperomia flexicaulis

Peperomia flexicaulis  Wawra 1862

Peperomia glutinosa

Peperomia pereskiifolia  (Jacq.) Kunth 1816
Syn. Peperomia glutinosa  Millspaugh 1898

Peperomia graveolens

Peperomia graveolens  Rauh & Barthlott 1975
Name: Latin graveolens means "bad smelling," referring to the flower spike 
This small-growing Peperomia is a real gem with red stems supporting succulent, ovate, glossy red leaves with a green window on their upper surface. The inflorescence is a greenish spike with a mousy odour on a red peduncle.
Native to dry mountains of Southern Ecuador, growing at elevations of up to 8000ft.
Left: Grown and photographed by Robert Swan.

Peperomia griseoargentea

Peperomia griseoargentea  Yuncker 1958
Name: Latin griseoargentea = grey + silver 
This species has deeply veined heart-shaped, silvery-gray foliage, tinted green or copper along the veins.
Native to Brazil. Numerous selected forms are in circulation.

Peperomia hoffmanii

Peperomia hoffmannii  A.C.P. de Candolle 1866
Named for: Karl Hoffmann (1823 -1859) physician & naturalist who studied & collected flora of Costa Rica 
This Peperomia creeps along the ground or hangs down, with tiny green leaves in groups of three at the nodes of the green stems. The spikes of white flowers are shorter and slightly thicker, so less like rat's tails, than on many Peperomias.
Native to South and Meso-America from Brazil to Mexico.

Peperomia incana

Peperomia incana  (Haw.) A. Dietrich 1831 (Felted Peperomia)
Name: Latin incana = grey 
Stout green sprawling stems support alternate, ovate grey-green leaves covered with fine white hairs.
Native to Brazil. A very tolerant, robust plant.

Peperomia lanceolata

Peperomia lanceolata   A.C.P. de Candolle 1866
Name: Latin lanceolata = lance shaped 
Trailing brown stems have small sword-shaped dark green leaves with the vein pattern incised into the leaf surface and in some clones delineated in light green.
Native to Ecuador.

Peperomia magnoliifolia  A. Dietrich 1831
Name: Latin magnoliifolia = Magnolia Leaf 
This Peperomia spreads through adventitious brown stems to form mats or hummocks of glossy green leaves. Numerous variegated and coloured leaf forms are in circulation.
Native to Northern South America into Mexico, West Indies and Bermuda.

Peperomia magnoliifolia Peperomia magnoliifolia variegata Peperomia magnoliifolia cv. green & gold Peperomia magnoliifolia cv. golden gate Peperomia magnoliifolia cv. white cloud
Peperomia magnoliifolia Peperomia magnoliifolia
Peperomia magnoliifolia
cv. green & gold
Peperomia magnoliifolia
cv. golden gate
Peperomia magnoliifolia
cv. white cloud
Peperomia macrostachya

Peperomia macrostachya  A. Dietrich 1831
Name: Latin macrostachya = large spikes 
An epiphytic climber with trailing red stems and succulent, waxy, ovate green leaves with pointed tips. The flower spike is brownish.
Native to Central and South America including Bolivia, Peru. An infusion of the leaves is traditionally used as a diuretic. The seeds produce an odour that attracts ants as an aid to seed dispersal and Peperomia macrostachya is a common component of ant gardens. The reward is a fleshy aril, but the seeds contain a compound that is toxic to ants.

Peperomia maypurensis

Peperomia maypurensis  Kunth 1816   Syn. Peperomia ornata Yuncker 1954
Name: of the region of the Maypure (Maipure), an extinct Amazonian tribe 

Native to Venezuela and Peru.

Peperomia nitida variegata

Peperomia nitida variegata  Dahlstedt 1900
Name: Latin nitidus = shining, bright 

Native to South America including Brazil.

Peperomia nivalis

Peperomia nivalis  Miquel 1843
Name: Latin nivalis = of the snow  
This dwarf species has green stems with ovate, fleshy green leaves becoming reddened in strong light. The upper surface of the leaf is grooved with a green window. The branching inflorescence is yellowish-green.
Native to Peru.
Left: Grown and photographed by Robert Swan.

Peperomia obtusifolia

Peperomia obtusifolia  A. Dietrich 1831 (Baby Rubber Tree )
Name: Latin obtusifolia = blunt-leaved 
A low shrubby ground cover Peperomia with cupped glossy dark-green leaves with may have drip tips or notched ends. The short reddish stems are brittle but root easily.
Native to the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida. Selected cultivars are in circulation including forms with cream, gray or gold variegation.

Peperomia prostrata Peperomia prostrata flowers

Peperomia prostrata  B.S. Williams 1879
Name: Latin prostrata = prostrate 
Peperomia prostrata creeps across the surface forming a dense mat of thin vining stems with succulent, fleshy rounded leaves whose surface is marked with a network of veins in lighter green. The narrow flower spike is reddish-brown.
Native to rainforest of Brazil. Great for a hanging basket. The vines root as they touch the soil but don't go deep and can be grown on damp moss.

Peperomia pseudovariegata

Peperomia pseudovariegata  A.C.P. de Candolle 1869
Name: Latin pseudovariegata = mistaken for a variegate 
This plant has large ovate dark-green leaves with their veins marked in light green and with prominent drip tips. Flower spikes are brown.
Native to Columbia, Ecuador and Peru.

Peperomia reticulata Peperomia reticulata grown as a epiphyte

Peperomia reticulata  I.B. Balfour 1877
Name: Latin reticulata = net-like 
This creeping Peperomia has reddish stems and small lanceolate green leaves. Flower spikes are green.
Native to Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean.

Peperomia rubella

Peperomia rubella  Hooker 1823
Name: Latin rubella = slightly red 
This creeping Peperomia has red stems bearing dark-green oval leaves with red undersides, arranged in clusters of four. The slender inflorescence is green.
Native to Jamaica.

Peperomia puteolata

Peperomia tetragona  Ruiz & Pavón 1798 (Parallel Peperomia )
Syn. Peperomia puteolata  Trelease 1836

Native to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru

Peperomia trifolia Peperomia trifolia

Peperomia trifolia  (Linnaeus) A. Dietrich 1831
Reddish-green stems support rounded leaves in groups of three. Greenish flower spikes produce tiny white flowers.
Native to the Caribbean islands of Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Peperomia trinervula

Peperomia trinervula  A.C.P. de Candolle 1869  Syn. Peperomia rotundata trinervula
Name: Latin trinervula = small three veined  
A small vining Peperomia with ovate green leaves. The green stems become reddish-brown with maturity. The flower spike is green.
Native to Venezuela.

Peperomia urocarpa

Peperomia urocarpa  Fischer & Meyer 1838
Name: Greek oura = tail + Latin carpa = fruit 
This distinctive trailing Peperomia has red stems and succulent rounded emerald-green leaves.
Native to Brazil and islands of the the Eastern Caribbean including Saba, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Greater Antilles.
This Peperomia was labelled as Peperomia aurocarpa but I can't validate that name.

Peperomia vestita var. lindenii

Peperomia vestita  de Candolle 1998  var. lindenii  Rauh 2000
Name: Latin vestita refers to the plants' vestments - pubescence covering the younger leaves. 
This unusual shrubby Peperomia has thick grey stems and ovate leaves that are pubescent when young. In var. vestita the leaves are densely pubescent but in var. lindenii shown here the hairs are shed as the leaves age. A branching red flower stem supports the branching green inflorescence.
Native to Bolivia.

Peperomia species

Peperomia sp.  
This Peperomia has a small tuber which supports the vegetative growth.
Similar to Peperomia macrorhiza Kunth 1815
from Northern Peru.

Peperomia cv. Gorgeous

Peperomia cv. Gorgeous

Peperomia repii

Peperomia sp.
Labelled as Peperomia repii but clearly isn't that species which has shiny purple-green, bronze to dark green leaves.
Probably a form of Peperomia rubella  Hooker 1823

Peperomia sp.

Peperomia sp.
Labelled as Peperomia tristachya  Kunth 1815 but clearly isn't that species.
Still an attractive plant.

Peperomia species

Peperomia sp.
This species has brown stems with small lanceolate leaves that are inrolled a little along their longitudinal axis. The flower spikes are greenish.

Piper  Linnaeus 1753 (pepper)
The genus Piper includes over 1000 species of diverse shrubby plants and climbing vines from tropical rainforests and cloud forests of Africa, S. America, and South-East Asia. Peppers typically grow as understory plants and may be very common in some places. Some species e.g. Piper cenocladum form mutualistic relationships with ants.

Piper nigrum  Linnaeus 1753
Several Piper species are of great economic importance and cultivated to produce culinary spices or narcotics. The climbing vine Piper nigrum (Right) is probably the most important source of black pepper, but the berries of several other species can also be ground into pepper. The inflorescence is a vermiform spike (spadix) of tiny florets, followed by a cluster of green berries ripening through red to almost black.
The single seed within the berry (peppercorn) is the source of white pepper. Black pepper is made from the whole green berries, briefly cooked, dried and ground. Green pepper is made from freeze dried or pickled, unripe berries. Peppercorns have been used in cooking for thousands of years and their remains are found during excavation of Neolithic habitations. The pungent nature of pepper is due to the alkaloid piperine and its isomer chavicine.

piper nigrum
piper nigrum

Prior to discovery of the New World, Piper longum (Indian Long Pepper) provided a similar spice to black pepper. Roots of the shrubby plant Piper methysticum are ground to make Kava, a narcotic beverage. Long-term use can cause health problems.
Nuts from the Betel Nut Palm Areca catechu together with Betel Leaf from the vine Piper betle are chewed throughout Asia. A cocktail of toxic substances in the nuts causes oral and oesophageal cancer in heavy users, but doubtless discourages herbivores.
Piper species are often grown in frost-free gardens as climbing foliage plants or shrubs. Piper ornatum has attractively patterned leaves.