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A widely spread genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the Rue family, of which some half a dozen hardy species are in cultivation. Their leading characteristics are the strong, aromatic, sometimes unpleasant odour of the crushed leaves, the spiny young branches and leaf-stalks, the trifoliolate or pinnate, alternate leaves, the small, mostly unisexual flowers, the two-valved roundish capsules which split downward, and the shining black or blue seeds which, after the bursting of the capsules, often remain for some time attached by a short thread. For the two sections of the genus see under Z. schinifolium.
These species are not in the first rank of ornamental shrubs, but well-grown specimens are handsome in foliage. They like a good deep soil, and are best propagated by seeds; when these are not available they may be increased by cuttings made of the young wood in July, or of the roots in spring. The fruits and seeds of some species have a pungent pepper-like taste and are used as a condiment, and the bark contains a powerful stimulant and tonic principle sometimes employed in medicine. The generic name, sometimes spelt Xanthoxylum, refers to the yellowness of the wood of some species.