Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tuesday's Trees- Chinaberry

If you have Chinaberry, Melia azedarach trees in your area, this is the time of year where you KNOW they are in your area.  The yellow berries hanging in clusters at the ends of the stems really stand out.  I saw these trees in Virginia and wasn't sure what they were. (this was well before my quest for tree knowledge)  The first fall we lived here I noticed a tree along a two-lane numbered road (not really a highway, more of a rural road) that had a few yellow berries.  I made note of the area so on the return trip I looked more closely at that tree.  Sure enough!! It was a Chinaberry.  Since then I have seen others closer to home.


This tree is not native to the United States nor North America.  It is a native to Asia, from India to China.  It is a member of the Mahogany family and goes by many names- Bead tree (see those berries?), Umbrella tree,  and Persian lilac.  It is a lovely shaped tree, rounded oval crown, similar to an umbrella (see name above) and doesn't get too tall, only about 40 feet at maturity.  



The bark is brown-gray on young trees and has pale gray ridges with orange furrows on the mature tree.   The two trees (above and below) are along the same street.  Both have been cut back rather severely.  The trees are twisted and not really nicely formed.  They do show the mature bark.   I was driving -- slowly-- when I took these pictures, so they are a little blurry. 


The leaves are bipinnate, 7- 10 inches long.  The individual leaflets are small, about 2 inches, and sharply toothed.  ALL PARTS of the tree are poisonous.  It is not only harmful to humans but wildlife as well.  According to Floridata website, birds eating too many of these berries can render them paralyzed.  


Other sites offer medicinal uses for parts of this tree, one against the herpes simplex virus according to IFAS.   Some states have this tree on the invasive list, Texas for one, and Florida does not.  It is termed a weedy tree.   


Spring flowers are a delicate purple appearing in May - June.  The flowers are said to be fragrant.  I will have to check that out next spring.  The star shaped flowers are lovely.


All those little blooms are future yellow berries. 


I was happy to find an uncut specimen along our travels in the Upstate.  You can see the form of the tree is indeed an umbrella/ oval crown.  Again, a drive-by photo, I wasn't driving this time but the speed limit was 50 MPH and there was someone coming up behind us.  Charlie loves these 'slow down so I can take a picture' times.  


Thanks for coming along for another Tuesday's Trees.  My sources (besides the ones above) are Alien Plant Working Group, VA Tech,  Forestry Department, and Duke.  


©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

40 comments:

  1. It has a very unique form. Most pretty! I have never seen one but will be on the lookout for it.

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    1. Tina, yes, it does have a nice form. Keep your eyes open for them along the roadways.

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  2. It certainly does live up to it's nickname in the last photo,I like it!

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    1. Darla, yes it does live up to its nickname when left to grow into its form.

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  3. Hello Janet,
    We had Chinaberry trees when I was a child. It is the lovely blooms I remember best.
    I did not know they were poisonous to animals as well as humans. I guess our chickens knew instinctively not to eat them.

    My Night Blooming Cactus bloomed last week - I posted photo on Wednesday this week.
    The cactus is safely inside the house now as our weather has turned colder.

    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

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    1. Lea, Glad the chickens didn't eat the Chinaberries. Maybe it was instincts. Lovely Cactus bloom!!

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  4. Hi Janet, This is an interesting tree. I like the umbrella shape of it. With all those yellow berries I can see how it might have become a problem in some states. I was wondering about the birds eating it- do they become paralyzed temporarily or is this a permanent, heart stopping type of paralysis?

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    1. Jennifer, it is one that stands out. I am not sure about the paralysis being temporary or permanent...I read more on it and found nothing.

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  5. Hello Janet,
    I love the shape of the tree as well. It makes me want to take a nap under it.
    except I won't sleep with my mouth open just in case a berry falls in. :)

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    1. Rosey, haha Yes, don't sleep under the Chinaberry with your mouth open.

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  6. My grandmother had chinaberry trees and I just loved them as a child.

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    1. Carolyn, Many have said they remember these trees as part of their childhood. They have been here for a long time.

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  7. I have always wondered what this tree would look like, as it is often mentioned in literature. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. I'm quite sure we have none around here, or else I just haven't come across one in its memorable fruiting stage.

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    1. Ricki, Yes, it mentioned in literature, glad I could put a picture to it for you.

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  8. Not a tree I would plant, but I do love the umbrella shape.

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    1. Jason, no not a tree I would plant either, but nicely shaped.

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  9. Not a tree I have up here, but it does have nice form.

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    1. Donna, I don't think they are hardy to your area (zones 7-10)that is a good thing.

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  10. I knew it wasn't native, but had no idea that the tree is in the mahogany family. Thanks for another educational tree post.

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    1. Freda, I didn't know it was in the mahogany family until my research.

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  11. I don't know if I've ever seen a chinaberry tree although I regularly get the Chinaberry catalog. :) I think your series on trees is excellent. People will search for tree IDs, and will find your excellent information. The photos following the trees throughout the seasons is so helpful too. Thanks Queen!~~Dee

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    1. Dee, These trees really stand out in the fall with their yellow foliage and yellow berries. Could be that you didn't notice them other times of the year. I am very happy you like my tree series.

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  12. What a very interesting tree...I like the shape of the canopy, the berries and the shape of that trunk...

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    1. Donna, it is a great tree to study, all aspects are interesting- bark, leaves, flowers, and berries.

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  13. What a neat shape this tree has. Definitely something you could spot easily. Too bad it is so weedy. Thanks for the photos following this tree throughout the season. Really helpful to see both flowers and berries as well as overall shape for id.

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    1. Marguerite, yes it is easy to spot especially in the fall. I try to get multiple season photos to help with the ID.

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  14. I do see these growing around here. Being non-native and potentially invasive I wouldn't plant it but it does have an interesting shape. I wonder if birds have an internal button telling them not to eat too many of the berries. I like this series you are doing. I am learning a lot more about trees which is not my area of expertise.

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    1. Karin, Yes, it is all over our area. I am not sure about the birds' habits on eating these berries. Trees have not been my expertise either...so one tree at a time I started learning. I still have a lot of trouble knowing many of them.

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  15. Thanks for introducing me to yet another tree I wasn't familiar with, Janet. The flowers in the spring are so pretty, but what I really like are the huge trunks of the older trees--twisted or not, they're pretty impressive. I hope the birds know not to eat these berries, though!

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    1. Rose, You are welcome. Yes the spring blooms are really pretty. These older tree's trunks are really interesting.

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  16. I like its flowers and berries. I don't think it grows here in the Pacific Northwest.

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    1. Tatyana, I don't think it grows up there either...be glad, it is weedy and borders on invasive.

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  17. My wife has a wreath made from Chinaberry seeds (purchased in Charleston) hanging in the kitchen.

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    1. Les, I imagine a Chinaberry wreath would be attractive. I assume the berries stay on the stems well?

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  18. I think I've seen these around. Now I know what to call them. Thanks! :o) So glad your daughter has her power back!

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    1. Tammy, that is how I felt when I first heard what these trees were! I am glad she has power too, hoping the snow storm doesn't knock out power to those who finally got it back. What a terrible time those folks are having.

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  19. I have heard the name but, don't think I've seen one before...

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    1. Gail, I am not sure if they are in your area. Will have to keep my eyes open next time I am out that way. Might not because of your zone...it is hardy zones 7- 10.

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