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(Wintera family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: Use of an infusion of the bark of one species in the treatment of warts has been documented but, otherwise, evidence of traditional use of these plants for skin conditions is sparse. •
• Adverse effects: The presence of one or more capsaicin-like sesquiterpene dialdehydes in the leaves and bark of several species endows them with a chilli-pepper-like pungency. The potential of one of these substances to contact sensitise has been demonstrated in guinea pigs. In addition, volatile oils present in the leaves contain a variety of common and well-known weakly irritant and contact sensitising monoterpenoids and phenylpropanoids. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

According to Mabberley (2008), this is a family of about 65 species of evergreen trees and shrubs in four genera. Representatives are found in Madagascar, from Malesia to Australia, and across the south-west Pacific region to Central and South America. He regards Zygogynum Baill., which accounts for about 50 species, as the principal genus. Other authorities recognise 7 or 8 genera, with Drimys J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. and Tasmannia R.Br. ex DC. being considered distinct genera (Smith 1969) and Zygogynum being separated into Belliolum Tiegh., Bubbia Tiegh., and Exospermum Tiegh. The plants were at one time classified in the Magnoliaceae.

Some Drimys / Tasmannia species are grown in temperate regions as tender ornamentals (Hunt 1968/70).

Drimys winteri J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. is the source of Winter's bark, otherwise known as Cortex Winteri seu Winteranus, which was formerly used medicinally, principally in the treatment of scurvy. It yields a volatile oil (Oleum Corticis Winteri) with a very hot and acrid taste (Pereira 1842, Remington et al. 1918). The seeds, leaves, and/or bark of this and certain other species (Drimys lanceolata Baill., Drimys stipitata Vickery) are now valued as culinary spices known variously as Tasmanian pepper, Dorrigo pepper, mountain pepper, etc. (Hegarty et al. 2001), having a chilli-pepper-like pungency which gives way to a strange sensation of numbness.

Drimys J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
[syn. Tasmannia R.Br. ex DC.]
Pepper Tree

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Drimys brasiliensis Miers subsp. sylvatica Ehrend. & Gottsb.
[syns Drimys brasiliensis Miers var. sylvatica Miers, Drimys granadensis L.f. var. sylvatica A.St.-Hil.]

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Drimys lanceolata Baill.
[syns Drimys aromatica F.Muell., Tasmannia aromatica R.Br., Tasmannia lanceolata A.C. Smith, Winterana lanceolata Poir.]
Tasmanian Pepper Bush, Pepper Tree, Mountain Pepper

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Drimys winteri J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
[syns Drimys winterana Thell., Winterana aromatica Sol. ex Foth.]
Winter's Bark Tree

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Pseudowintera axillaris Dandy
[syns Drimys axillaris J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., Wintera axillaris J.F.Gmel., Wintera terminalis Tiegh.]
Lowland Horopito, Lowland Pepper Tree

Brooker & Cooper (1961a) included this species in a list of Māori (New Zealand) medicinal plants, noting that the sap and an infusion of the leaves have been used [in an unspecified way] in the treatment of [unspecified] skin diseases.

Pseudowintera colorata Dandy
[syns Drimys colorata Raoul, Wintera colorata Tiegh.]
Horopito, Pepper Tree

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Brooker SG, Cooper RC (1961a) New Zealand medicinal plants. Economic Botany 15(1): 1-10 [doi] [doi-2] [url]
  • Hegarty MP, Hegarty EE, Wills RBH (2001) Food Safety of Australian Plant Bushfoods. RIRDC Publication No 01/28. Barton, ACT: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (2008) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Pereira J (1842) Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 2nd edn, Vols 1 & 2. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Remington JP, Wood HC, Sadtler SP, LaWall CH, Kraemer H, Anderson JF (Eds) (1918) The Dispensatory of the United States of America. 20th edn. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Smith AC (1969) A reconsideration of the genus Tasmannia (Winteraceae). Taxon 18(3): 286-290 [doi] [doi-2] [url] [url-2]
  • [ + 12 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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