About Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) of the Mahogany (Meliaceae) Family
The poisonous Chinaberry tree (also known as bead-tree, Persian lilac, white cedar, Texas umbrella, pride of India, or Cape lilac) has a round, spreading crown and grows up to 14 meters (42 feet) tall. It has alternate, compound (odd-pinnate) leaves with toothed (serrated margins) leaflets that are dark green on top and light green underneath. Its small, fragrant flowers are light purple with a dark center and grow in ball-like masses with each having five pale purple petals. It has marble-sized fruits that are light orange when first formed but turn to light yellow as they become older. Over time they will become withered and almost white in color. Seeds are hard with five grooves.
All parts of the tree should be considered dangerous if eaten. Its poisonous leaves are a natural insecticide and will repel insects from stored fruits and grains. Take care not to eat leaves mixed with the stored food though.
Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, bloody feces, stomach pain, cardiac arrest, rigidity, lack of coordination, and general weakness. Death may occur after 24 hours.
Habitat and Distribution of Chinaberry trees
Chinaberry is native to the Himalayas and eastern Asia but is now planted as an ornamental tree throughout the tropical and subtropical regions. It has been introduced to the southern United States and has escaped to thickets, old fields, and disturbed areas.
Other uses for Chinaberry trees
The primary use for a Chinaberry tree is for its lumber. The hard, five-grooved sees are often used to make beads for jewelry (e.g. rosaries).
Visual guide for the Chinaberry tree
In-Article Image CreditsA Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) bearing fruit via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License
Melia azedarach wild Chinaberry tree via Wikimedia Commons by Forest and Kim Starr with usage type - Creative Commons License. November 27, 2004
Melia azedarach wild Chinaberry tree in Maui via Wikimedia Commons by Forest and Kim Starr with usage type - Creative Commons License. November 27, 2004
White Cedar Chinaberry Tree Melia azederach via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 12, 2014
Fruits of a Chinaberry bead-tree (Melia azedarach) via Wikimedia Commons by Zeynel Cebeci with usage type - Creative Commons License. October 15, 2016
Chinaberry tree berries and stems via Wikimedia Commons by Salix with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 21, 2014
Melia azedarach Chinaberry berries, flowers, and leaves via Wikimedia Commons by Anna Anichkova with usage type - Creative Commons License. April 10, 2014
Melia Azedarach - Azédarac bipinné. (Chinaberry, China tree, Chinaball tree) via Wikimedia Commons by New York Public Library with usage type - Public Domain. 1801
Chinaberry tree bark Melia azedarach trunk via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free. December 30, 2005
Featured Image CreditMelia azedarach Chinaberry berries, flowers, and leaves via Wikimedia Commons by Anna Anichkova with usage type - Creative Commons License. April 10, 2014