There’s more to the Chinaberry tree than meets the eye. It isn’t just a pretty garden ornament. Read this Gardenerdy article to know more about its uses and some interesting facts about Chinaberry trees.
Some other common names for the Chinaberry tree are Bead Tree, Persian Lilac, China Ball Tree, and Pride of India.
The Melia azedarach, commonly known as Chinaberry, is native to countries like Australia, India, China, Pakistan, and some other parts of Asia. Chinaberry is a deciduous tree that can grow as tall as 15 meters (approximately 50 feet).
It produces clusters of yellow-colored berries and pretty, lilac colored flowers, and is found in large numbers across the United States, especially in the southern parts of the country.
When it was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental tree is not exactly clear―some experts claim it was brought to the country in the eighteenth century, while others say it was brought sometime in the 1800s. Let’s take a closer look at the various uses of this tree.
Uses of Chinaberry
Being an ornamental tree in nature, Chinaberry has a number of uses, but to what extent these uses actually matter is largely debated by people all over. Some people appreciate its uses, while others find the tree to be a pest.
Chinaberry grows quite tall and has an expansive foliage, which makes it an excellent shade tree. With its small clusters of pretty, fragrant flowers or small berries, it serves as a wonderful decoration for yards. The sweeping foliage also encourages people to put up outdoor furniture in their gardens.
One of Chinaberry’s biggest uses is timber. Loved for its rich deep reddish colors, Chinaberry wood is used, though not on a very large-scale yet, to make furniture and veneer. It is fairly pest-resistant, odorless, and very easy to work with.
Chinaberry is also known as the Bead Tree in some parts of the world. True to its name, the old berries of the tree can be used as beads to make necklaces or rosaries. They can be easily painted and threaded, which makes it easier to make necklaces, rosaries, earrings, bracelets, key-rings, or any other product that is made of beads. However, make sure to clean them properly first, as they are very toxic.
Cut branches of the Chinaberry are sold by florists. These branches can be used as a backdrop for outdoor furniture or other decorative purposes.
This was one of the early uses of Chinaberry when it was introduced to the U.S. People used the berries as a cleansing agent for their soiled clothes by mashing them and adding some water to the pulp.
For those who are not comfortable with using synthetic pesticides, Chinaberry offers a more natural solution. The dry berries of this tree are used to make natural pesticides in order to keep lawns free from fleas. Chinaberry leaves are also used to keep insects away from stored food. However, one needs to be extremely careful while using the leaves for this purpose, as they are very poisonous and can harm human beings and animals to a great extent if consumed.
Some herbal remedies claim the effectiveness of Chinaberry in their medicines, and in some areas of the world, it is believed that Chinaberry extracts contain anticancer and antiviral properties. Some remedies insist that the bark of the tree can be used to treat parasites in the intestines. However, there is no scientific proof for these claims yet. On the contrary, the infamous effects of Chinaberry’s toxicity are widely known.
What does a Chinaberry tree symbolize?
The Chinaberry tree is believed to be symbolic of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. It is also believed to symbolize hope and strength in some cultures.
Chinaberry Tree Facts
The Chinaberry tree proves that looks can be very deceiving. Though its berries and flowers appear very attractive, in reality, the tree should be approached with great caution. The bark, leaves, flowers, and berries of Chinaberry are all toxic and can cause severe problems to human beings as well as animals. Chinaberry is known to poison humans, cattle, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, and other farm animals if consumed. The symptoms of poisoning from Chinaberry make themselves apparent very soon―diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, seizures, and cardiac arrest, to name a few. Poisoning from Chinaberry tree can even be fatal. Hence, it is very important to keep the ground free from berries, leaves, or flowers of Chinaberry if there is a chance of consumption, either by children or animals.
When it was introduced as an exotic ornamental plant in the U.S., the Chinaberry was much-loved, until the cons of raising it became apparent. Unfortunately, this pretty tree comes with its share of troubles. Chinaberry trees grow easily and have a fast growth rate. They also encroach rapidly on the natural habitat of the region and have the ability to destroy other native species of flora. They reduce the plant diversity of that region, and are thus, a threat to its native environment. Many experts consider the Chinaberry a pest and include it in the list of harmful weeds.
Act as Mosquito Repellents
Chinaberry trees are said to repel mosquitoes. This, however, does not mean that they kill all the mosquitoes in that area. Many people having Chinaberry trees in their gardens claim that the toxic nature of the trees keeps mosquitoes and other insects away. This is, till date, a largely-debated point, and no definite proof has been found that supports this claim yet.
Effect on Birds
Birds love the fruit of Chinaberry trees and devour them. The toxins in the berries don’t drastically affect birds, but cause a “drunken state” in them for a while that affects their flying, and “drunk birds” can often be spotted around Chinaberry trees.
If you’re thinking of buying a Chinaberry for your garden, make sure you get a certified sapling from the nursery, one that is disease-free and pest-free. Having a Chinaberry tree in your yard can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. In the end, it all depends upon perspective, doesn’t it?