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U.S. Forest Service

Chiltepine or Bird Pepper (Capsicum annuum var. galbriusculum)

Map of Arizona. Counties are colored green where the species may be found. Capsicum annuum var. galbriusculum range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Chiltepine habitat. Chiltepine habitat. Photo by Native Seeds/SEARCH.

Chiltepine fruit. Chiltepine fruit. Photo by Native Seeds/SEARCH.

Chiltepine at base of rock. Chiltepine at base of rock. Photo by Native Seeds/SEARCH.

Chiltepine with many fruits. Chiltepine with many fruits. Photo by Native Seeds/SEARCH.

Chiltepines are wild chiles; a very special plant found only on the Coronado National Forest. In 1999, the Forest officially designated the Wild Chile Reserve in the Tumacacori Mountains north of the Arizona-Sonora border. This 2,500 acre special management area, surrounding Rock Corral Canyon, is home to the largest population of wild chiles in Arizona. There are only about 10 populations known in the state. It also represents the most northernmost distribution of the species. The designation was a coordinated effort with local botanists and Native Seed/SEARCH.

Wild chiles are small shrubs, with slender stems and leaves. They are very difficult to see when the chiles are not ripe. The plants are often found under larger shrubs on near rocks where they receive some protection from frost.

Wild chiles produce very small white flowers, followed by small bright red fruit (chiles). They are upright on the branches, rather than hanging as in most other cultivated chiles.

They are called bird peppers because birds love to eat the fruit. Despite their small size, these chiles are really, really hot! Should you find a plant, try one of the chiles. It is an experience you will truly remember.

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