Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum
History/general species info: Chiltepin was named "the official native pepper of Texas" in 1997. Common names include chiltepin, Indian pepper, chiltepe, and chile tepin, as well as turkey, bird’s eye, or simply bird peppers, due to their consumption and spread by wild birds. The most commercially important peppers come from this species and considered one of the predecessors of cultivated peppers. There are two ways of classifying chile peppers - by their heat and shape. In 1912 pharmacist Wilbur Scoville invented a test to measure the hotness of peppers by diluting the pepper until the heat was just perceptible on the tongue. The Scoville rating is measured in multiples of 100; he rated a bell pepper 0, while Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum rates an 8 - 40-58K.
Characteristics: Small shrub. Deciduous (loses leaves in winter.). Annual. Grows in sandy loam, clay, and caliche. Understory plant. Deer resistant. Has edible hot fruit. Naturally self pollinating. May spread some from seed, but it is not invasive. Sought after perennial native hot pepper that is well behaved in the garden. It is an easy to grow favorite that the birds will also appreciate. The fruits are edible and on the hot side as a seasoning. Beautiful when used in mass plantings.
Flower: White / Fruit
Planting / Care: Low to medium water requirement. Deer resistant. Salt tolerant. Adapts to a wide variety of soil types and either moist or very dry conditions. Soil should be loose and amended with compost before planting. It can grow in sand, loam, caliche, or limestone soils. Plants grown in the shade will be thin while those grown with a little sun exposure produce a thicker branching structure. Chile pequins will grow with sun or shade and respond to good care with more growth and fruits. Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
Size and Spacing: Height: 3-4’ Spread: 2’
Light requirement: Sun/ Shade
Wildlife: General wildlife including birds, bees and small mammals
Lady Bird Wildflower Center
photo credit: Ernie Edmonson