Melia azedarach L.
Rank: Significant Threat
Plant Type: Tree
Chinaberry is a deciduous tree to 50 feet (15 m) in height and 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter, much branched with multiple boles.
The twigs are stout, glossy greenish-brown with light dots (lenticels). There is no terminal bud and numerous broad, V-shaped, raised leaf scars with three bundle scars below a domed fuzzy bud. The bark is dark chocolate brown and becomes increasingly fissured with age; wood is soft and white.
Leaves are alternately whorled, bipinnately compound, 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) long and 9 to 16 inches (23 to 40 cm) wide. Leafstalks are lime green with bases that slightly clasp the stems. Each leaflet is lanceolate with tapering tips, 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 8 cm) long and 0.5 to 1.2 inches (1 to 3 cm) wide. Leaflet margins varying from entire to coarsely crenate to serrate and wavy. Leaves are a glossy dark green with light-green midvein above and pale green with lighter-green midvein beneath, becoming golden yellow in fall. They have a musky odor.
March to May Chinaberry produces showy flower panicles from lower axils of new stems. Each fragrant flower has five pinkish-lavender to whitish petals with stamens united in a dark-purple tube and five green sepals.
Fruit and Seeds
July to January. Berrylike spherical drupes 0.5 to 0.7 inch (1.2 to 1.8 cm) wide persist through winter and contain a stone with one to six seeds. Drupes are light green turning yellowish green then yellowish tan, and are poisonous to humans and livestock.
Photo: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
More images of Melia azedarach
Chinaberry is a deciduous tree to 50 feet (15 m) in height and 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter, much branched with multiple boles, lacy dark-green leaves having a musky odor, and clusters of lavender flowers in spring yielding persistent, poisonous yellow berries. It is a member of the Meliaceae or Mahogany family.
Ecology and Habitat
Chinaberry is common on roadsides, at forest margins (semi-shade tolerant), and around old home sites but rare at high elevations. It forms colonies from root sprouts or sprouts from root collars and spreads by bird-dispersed abundant seeds.
Origin and Distribution
Chinaberry was introduced in the mid-1800s from Asia and was widely planted as a traditional ornamental around homesites. Extracts from the tree are potentially useful for natural pesticides.
Other states where invasive: HI, FL, LA, TX, UT, OK, AR, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA.
Source: Information on this plant page is derived primarily from James H. Miller’s Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, USDA Forest Service.
Stem Injection and Cut Stump Methods
Trees. Make stem injections using Arsenal AC* , Pathway*, Pathfinder II, or Garlon 3A in dilutions and cut spacings specified on the herbicide label (anytime except March and April). For felled trees, apply these herbicides to stem and stump tops immediately after cutting.
Basal Bark Method for Saplings
Saplings. Apply Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution in commercially available basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix) with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray.
Foliar Spray Method
Sprouts and seedlings. Thoroughly wet all leaves with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant (July to October): Garlon 3A or Garlon 4 as a 2-percent solution (8 ounces per 3-gallon mix); Arsenal AC* as a 1-percent solution (4 ounces per 3-gallon mix).
*Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake.