T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Melia azedarach (Chinaberry)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Meliaceae
Genus: Melia
Species: M. azedarach
Binomial name: Melia azedarach
Synonyms: M. azedarach var. japonica, M. azedarach var. sempervirens, M. floribunda.
Common names: Chinaberry, Chinaberry tree, Pride of India, Bead-tree, Cape lilac, Syringa berrytree, Persian lilac, Indian lilac, White cedar, Paradise tree.



Melia azedarach is a species of deciduous tree in the mahogany family, Meliaceae that is native to Indomalaya and Australasia. It is a small to medium, monoecious (separate male and female flowers on the same tree) tree that can grow up to 35 metres in height. The trunk’s bark is brown with narrow furrows. Melia azedarach grows mainly by seed but it can root sucker extensively.
The alternate leaves are bi-pinnate with oval to elliptical-shaped leaflets that are a dark green above and lighter green below and they have serrate margins. The leaflets can be up to 70 mm long.
The 18 mm diameter, star-shaped flowers are fragrant with a chocolate scent. The flowers have five, pale purple or lilac petals and grow in clusters from the leaf axils.
The flowers are followed by yellow clusters of fruit. The fruit is a marble-sized drupe that is a light yellow on maturity. They hang on the tree after the leaves fall.

The yellow fruit is poisonous if eaten by humans and animals although many birds seem partial to them and are not affected. 
Tranortriterpenes have been isolated and identified as the main toxic constituents of the fruit. 
The poisonous fruit are toxic to humans and some other mammals. Pigs are the most susceptible. 
In humans the first symptoms of poisoning appear a few hours after ingestion. They may include loss of appetite, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, bloody faeces, stomach pain, pulmonary congestion, cardiac arrest, rigidity, lack of coordination and general weakness. Death may take place after about 24 hours. 6 to 8 fruits have been reported to cause death in young children.
The leaves are also toxic and deadly to grazing animals.

This link is to an article on human Melia azedarach poisoning: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15563650802310929

The distinctive berries remaining on the tree after the leaves fall.


Tree in flower.


The flowers.


The fruit


Thanks to Wikipedia for text and Information:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/