Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Melia azedarach
(Chinaberry)

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Datasheet

Melia azedarach (Chinaberry)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 29 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Melia azedarach
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Chinaberry
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. azedarach has rapid growth, early maturity, is toxic, has few natural enemies and is a prolific producer of seeds which are dispersed by avian vectors. It has become invasive in a number of locations in the Americas, the Pacific and Africa, and ha...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
TitleTree habit
Caption
CopyrightMike Moncur/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Tree habitMike Moncur/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
TitleTree grove
Caption
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Tree grove©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleTrunk and leaves
Caption
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Trunk and leaves©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleCrown, leaves and seeds
Caption
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Crown, leaves and seeds©K.M. Siddiqui
1. habit
2. leaf
3. flowering branch
4. section through flower
5. infructescence
TitleLine artwork
Caption1. habit 2. leaf 3. flowering branch 4. section through flower 5. infructescence
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
1. habit
2. leaf
3. flowering branch
4. section through flower
5. infructescence
Line artwork1. habit 2. leaf 3. flowering branch 4. section through flower 5. infructescencePROSEA Foundation

Identity

Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Melia azedarach L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Chinaberry

Other Scientific Names

  • Melia australasica A. Juss.
  • Melia bukayun Royle
  • Melia composita Willd.
  • Melia japonica G. Don
  • Melia sempervirens (L.) Sw.
  • Melia toosendan Siebold & Zucc.

International Common Names

  • English: Barbados lilac; China tree; Chinaberry tree; Persian lilac; pride of India; umbrella tree; white cedar
  • Spanish: arbol del paraiso; jacinta; paraiso
  • French: azedarach; lilas des Antilles; lilas des Indes

Local Common Names

  • Bangladesh: goda neem
  • Brazil: arvore-santa; cinamomo; jasmim-de-cachorro; jasmim-de-soldado; lilás-da-India; para-raios
  • Cambodia: dâk' hiën; sdau khmaôch
  • Germany: Paternosterbaum; Zedarachbaum
  • India: arebevu; bakam-limdo; bakarja; bakarjan; bakayan; bakon-limdi; betain; bokain; chik-bevu; deikna; dek; deknoi; drek; ghora nim; gowdnim; heb-bevu; hutchubevu; kadbevu; kaliyapa; karin vembu; kattu veppu; mahaneem; makanim; malla nim; mallay vembu; padrai; pejri; puvempu; sima veppu; taraka-vepa; thamaga; thurakavepa; turka; vaymbu; vilayati nim; yerri-vepa
  • Indonesia: mindi
  • Indonesia/Java: gringging
  • Indonesia/Sumatra: marambung
  • Italy: albero dei paternostri
  • Laos: h'ienx; kadau s'a:ngz
  • Malaysia: mindi kecil
  • Netherlands: galbessen; paternosterboom
  • Pakistan: bakain; white cedar
  • Philippines: bagaluñga; balagañgo; paraiso
  • Singapore: mindi kechil
  • Thailand: khian; lian
  • Vietnam: xoan

EPPO code

  • MEIAZ (Melia azedarach)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page M. azedarach has rapid growth, early maturity, is toxic, has few natural enemies and is a prolific producer of seeds which are dispersed by avian vectors. It has become invasive in a number of locations in the Americas, the Pacific and Africa, and has been classified as an invasive species in some countries including South Africa and Hawaii, USA. It is difficult to control because of its ability to resprout from stems and suckers, and the expense of chemical techniques.

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Rutales
  •                         Family: Meliaceae
  •                             Genus: Melia
  •                                 Species: Melia azedarach

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Melia azedarach was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 (Spec. Plant. 384) and belongs to the family Meliaceae. The generic name is derived from the Greek word melia - manna ash, referring to the resemblance of the leaves to Fraxinus ornus. The specific name is from the Persian 'azad-darakht', meaning 'noble tree'. The type was formally described from an Indian cultivar.

Mabberley (1984) and Mabberley et al. (1995) reviewed the taxonomy and botanical history of M. azedarach sens. Lat. (wild white cedar and the cultivated Persian lilac). The authors argue that the whole complex be described as a single species Melia azedarach and suggest an informal infraspecific classification under three groups: wild trees, Chinese cultivars and Indian cultivars, each containing many forms with different synonyms or varietal names. They treat as synonyms or varieties Melia sempervirens (L.) Sw., Melia dubia Cav., Melia composita Willd., Melia australasica A. Juss., Melia bukayun Royle and Melia japonica G. Don. However, Sasidharan and Sivarajan (1996) regard the Indian Melia dubia as a separate species because of its distinct morphological and field characteristics.

In Africa, the taxonomy is as yet not resolved (Mabberley, 1984); the author refers to two distinct species - Melia volkensii Guerke (East Africa) and Melia bombobo Welw. (Angola).

Melia azedarach is often confused with the neem tree Azadirachta indica, to which it is related. A. indica easily be distinguished by the absence of stellate leaf hairs, pinnate leaves (not bipinnate as in M. azedarach), 3-lobed stigmas (not 5-lobed) and 1- to 2-seeded drupes (not up to 5-seeded).

Description

Top of page M. azedarach is typically a medium-sized tree to 20 m tall with a diameter to 60 cm (Gupta, 1993). M. azedarach var. australasica (white cedar) which occurs in Australia grows into a large tree up to 45 m tall and 1.2 m in diameter in moist closed forest (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). Under drier conditions the maximum height is 10-15 m. In India it is reported that there are three main forms (Troup and Joshi, 1981). The most common form has rather long branches, which form a loose open crown and has rather a straggly growth habit. Another form, which is occasionally seen, has a dense, umbrella shaped crown. A third form flowers as a seedling and continues flowering at irregular intervals for a few years, by which time it has reached about 1.8 m in height and then proceeds to die. M. azedarach has a shallow root system. The bark is gray-brown and smooth, becoming thick and longitudinally fissured with age. Branchlets are brown with prominent leaf scars and reddish-brown lenticels. The leaves are bipinnate, wholly or partly tripinnate, more or less opposite, (15-) 23 to 80 cm long, glabrescent; petiole 8-30 cm long, terete, lenticellate, swollen at base; pinnae in 3-7 pairs, up to 25 cm long, petiolule 3-7 mm long; leaflets in 3-7 pairs, opposite or nearly so, ovate or oblong-lanceolate to elliptical, 2-10 cm x 0.6-3.8 cm, base slightly unequilateral, acute to rounded, apex acuminate, margin entire to variously serrate (Mabberley, 1984; Ahmed and Idris, 1997). The inflorescence is an axillary, loose panicle 10-22 cm long, primary branches 5-7.5 cm long, with primary branches 5-7.5 cm long and secondary branches up to 2 cm long, bearing fascicles of flowers on second-year wood (Cunningham et al., 1992). The flower bracts are 3-10 mm long, filiform, caduous bracteoles similar but smaller, pedicel 2-3 mm long; purplish to white, fragrant, bisexual or male. The mature fruit is a yellowish-brown globular drupe 2-4 cm x 1-2 cm, containing up to 5 seeds in a hard endocarp and surrounded by a thin, succulent outer flesh. The seeds are oblong, smooth, brown, ca. 3.5 x 1.6 mm (Mabberley, 1984; Ahmed and Idris, 1997).

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

Top of page The natural distribution of M. azedarach is uncertain but is thought to be native to Asia probably from Baluchistan, (Pakistan) and Kashmir (India and Pakistan) (Troup, 1921; National Academy of Sciences, 1983), but has long been cultivated throughout the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and China. Mabberley et al. (1995) reports the distribution of 'wild trees' from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and tropical China, south and east through Malesia: Sumatra, Java, Philippines (Luzon, Negros, Mindanao), the Lesser Sunda Islands (Flores, Timor, Wetar), Papua Barat and Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Solomon Islands. It is widely scattered in China, through Malesia to the Solomon Islands and Australia (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). In Australia it extends from northern Queensland to southern New South Wales, usually within 100 km of the coastline (Doran and Turnbull, 1997), and it also occurs in the Kimberley region in northern Western Australia (Wheeler et al., 1992), northern areas of the Northern Territory and the Gulf of Carpentaria in northwestern Queensland. The latitudinal range covering both natural and naturalized populations is from approximately 35°N-35°S indicating a purely tropical distribution.

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
BahrainPresentIntroduced Planted
BangladeshPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
BhutanPresentIntroduced Planted
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
CambodiaPresentIntroduced Planted
ChinaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-GuangdongPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-GuangxiPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-HainanPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-SichuanPresentIntroduced Planted
-YunnanPresentNativePlanted, Natural
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
GazaPresentIntroduced Planted
IndiaPresentNativeTroup and Joshi, 1981; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-AssamPresentIntroduced Planted
-GujaratPresentIntroduced Planted Patel and Singh, 1996
-HaryanaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Indian PunjabPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Planted
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativePlanted, Natural
IndonesiaPresentNativePIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-Irian JayaPresentNativePIER, 2002
-JavaPresentIntroduced Planted
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Planted
IranPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
IraqPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
IsraelPresentIntroduced Planted Dafni and Heller , 1990
JapanPresentNativePIER, 2002
-KyushuPresentNativePIER, 2002
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentNativePIER, 2002
-ShikokuPresentNativePIER, 2002
JordanPresentIntroduced Planted
KazakhstanPresentIntroduced Planted
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
KuwaitPresentIntroduced Planted
LaosPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
LebanonPresentIntroduced Planted
MalaysiaPresentNativeWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Planted
MyanmarPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NepalPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
PakistanPresentNativePlanted, NaturalWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedAhmed and Idris, 1997; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
SingaporePresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Sri LankaPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
SyriaPresentIntroduced Planted
TaiwanPresent Invasive Holm and et al. , 1979
ThailandPresentNativeWatanabe et al., 1988; Simsiri and Namsawath, 1993; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
TurkeyPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
VietnamPresentNative Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
YemenPresentIntroduced Planted

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroduced Planted
BotswanaPresentIntroducedBuss , 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017Naturalized
Burkina FasoPresentIntroduced Planted
CameroonPresentIntroduced Planted
Cape VerdePresentIntroduced Planted
ChadPresentIntroduced Planted
CongoPresentIntroduced Planted
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroduced Planted
DjiboutiPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
EgyptPresentIntroduced Planted
EritreaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
GhanaPresentIntroduced Planted
KenyaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
LesothoPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Planted
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
MaliPresentIntroduced Planted
MauritaniaPresentIntroduced Planted
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Planted
MoroccoPresentIntroduced Planted
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NigerPresentIntroduced Planted
NigeriaPresentIntroduced Planted
RéunionPresentIntroduced Planted
SenegalPresentIntroduced Planted
SomaliaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
South AfricaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; Henderson , 2001; Nyoka , 2002
SudanPresentIntroduced Planted
SwazilandPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
TanzaniaRestricted distributionIntroducedSheil , 1994; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-ZanzibarPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
TunisiaPresentIntroduced Planted
UgandaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Western SaharaPresentIntroduced Planted
ZambiaPresentIntroduced Planted
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Planted Nyoka , 2002

North America

MexicoPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
USAPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm and et al. , 1979; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Planted Anon, 2001
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Westbrooks , 1998; Anon, 2001
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2002; Weber , 2003
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Anon, 2001
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Planted Anon, 2001
-MissouriPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-New YorkPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive Anon, 2001
-TexasPresentIntroduced Planted Anon, 2001
-UtahPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001
-VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Anon, 2001; Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2003

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced Planted
BahamasPresentIntroducedBEST Commission, 2003
BarbadosPresentIntroduced Planted
BelizePresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Holm and et al. , 1979
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Planted
CubaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
DominicaPresentIntroduced Planted
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
GuatemalaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
HaitiPresentIntroduced Planted
HondurasPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NicaraguaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
PanamaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm and et al. , 1979; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedFrancis & Liogier, 1991; Anon, 2001; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced Planted
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced Planted
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAnon, 2001

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
BrazilPresentIntroduced Invasive Ziller and Rosa , 2001; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002; Instituto Horus, 2003
-ParanaPresentIntroduced Planted
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2003; Weber , 2003
ParaguayPresentIntroducedBrune, 1989; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002

Europe

AlbaniaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
CroatiaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
CyprusPresentIntroduced Planted
FrancePresentIntroducedpost 1665Debussche and Isenmann , 1990; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
GreecePresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
ItalyPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
MaltaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
PortugalPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
SpainPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
UKPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedDoran and Turnbull, 1997; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-New South WalesPresentNativePlanted, NaturalFloyd, 1979
-QueenslandPresentNativeTracey, 1982; Anderson, 1993
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Planted
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
FijiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedSpace and Falanruw , 1999; Space and et al. , 2000; PIER, 2002
NauruPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
NiuePresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Papua New GuineaPresentNativePIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
TongaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page M. azedarach is widely distributed throughout the tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. The species is a complex of natural and cultivated forms, the latter being in existence for over 2500 years (Mabberley, 1984). It is grown throughout the Middle East, South and South-East Asia, China, The West Indies, southern USA, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, West and East Africa, the Pacific region including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia (National Academy of Sciences, 1983).

Cronk and Fuller (1995) describe it as an invader of subtropical African and Pacific locations. In South Africa, M. azedarach is declared a category 3 invader under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act 1983 and is considered a habitat transformer (Henderson, 2001). Apparently it is one of the most widespread invasive plants in the Transvaal (Cronk and Fuller, 1995). A survey on the Orange River (Henderson, 1992) and in the Transvaal (Henderson and Musil, 1984) recorded that M. azedarach was a major invasive species with particular concern along perennial riverbanks.

Sheil (1994) found it naturalized and locally common in disturbed lowland forest in the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania. Elsewhere in Africa is has shown invasive activity in Botswana (Buss, 2002) and Zimbabwe (Nyoka, 2002). Holm et al., 1979 list this species as a common weed in Taiwan and a weed of unspecified importance in Belize, Panama and USA. In the Caribbean it has naturalized on Puerto Rico (Francis and Liogier, 1991) and is a category 2 invasive species in the Bahamas (BEST Commission, 2004).

It has been grown as a farm tree in North America since the 1700s (Anon., 2001). In the USA it is a serious weed in Florida where it is banned from four counties (Westbrooks, 1998). It is also regarded as moderately invasive in Virginia (Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2003) and Louisiana (Anon., 2001) and naturalized in a number of other states including Texas and Oklahoma (Langeland and Burks, 1998). It is also invasive in South America, in the Paraná region of Brazil, particularly along watercourses, (Ziller and Rosa, 2001; Instituto Horus, 2003). In the Pacific it is reported to be cultivated, common or weedy on Chuuk (Space et al., 2000) and Micronesia (Space and Falanruw, 1999). In the Mediterranean region, M. azedarach grows wild in Israel (Dafni and Heller, 1990). In the Montpellier region of France birds disperse the seeds but the species does not appear to have naturalized (Debussche and Isenmann, 1990).

Risk of Introduction

Top of page As this species has been so widely introduced, the main risk of invasion is likely to occur from already introduced plantings. It would be advisable to monitor for the early signs of invasive behaviour in areas where the climate and environmental conditions are similar to those of locations where M. azedarach has become invasive.

Habitat

Top of page According to Weber (2003), the native habitat of this species is lowland and highland rainforest. The distribution of M. azedarach in Thailand and Laos is associated with mixed deciduous forests. In Australia, it is widely distributed as single and scattered trees in, or on the margins of, closed-forest (rain forest) (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). In New South Wales it is found in riverain, dry and littoral rain forest (Floyd, 1979) and in northern Queensland in rain forest formations (Tracey, 1982). In South Africa, M. azedarach invades savannah, urban open spaces, wasteland, riparian corridors and road margins (Henderson, 2001). Brown and Gubb (1986) also reported it from mining areas, dry or moist drainage lines and riverbeds, dry floodplains, perennial and episodic river banks and sandy areas. In Tanzania, it has naturalized in lowland tropical forest (Sheil, 1994). In the USA, M. azedarach has established along roadsides and fences, in floodplain woodlands, marshes and upland woods (Langeland and Burks, 1998). In Hawaii, the species has also naturalized on pasture (PIER, 2002) and both disturbed and undisturbed habitats (Anon., 2001).

Habitat List

Top of page
CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

List of Symptoms/Signs

Top of page
SignLife StagesType
Digestive Signs / Decreased amount of stools, absent faeces, constipation Sign
Digestive Signs / Diarrhoea Sign
Digestive Signs / Difficulty in prehending or chewing food Sign
Digestive Signs / Rumen hypomotility or atony, decreased rate, motility, strength Sign
General Signs / Abnormal proprioceptive positioning, knuckling Sign
General Signs / Ataxia, incoordination, staggering, falling Sign
General Signs / Ataxia, incoordination, staggering, falling Sign
General Signs / Cyanosis, blue skin or membranes Sign
General Signs / Cyanosis, blue skin or membranes Sign
General Signs / Dehydration Sign
General Signs / Dysmetria, hypermetria, hypometria Sign
General Signs / Generalized weakness, paresis, paralysis Sign
General Signs / Hypothermia, low temperature Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration Sign
General Signs / Trembling, shivering, fasciculations, chilling Sign
General Signs / Trembling, shivering, fasciculations, chilling Sign
Nervous Signs / Coma, stupor Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Nervous Signs / Tremor Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Colic, abdominal pain Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea Sign

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

Substantial variation in growth amongst provenances was noted in field and glasshouse trials (Milimo, 1994). No substantial germplasm collections of M. azedarach are known to exist, and neither are any breeding programmes known (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). Breeding work may lead to e.g. improved wood quality, drought tolerance, higher fruit and oil yield and further developments on insecticidal properties and the possible variation that may exist between populations and varieties. It would also be useful to determine whether variants with non-toxic fruit exist.

Physiology and Phenology

This is a rapidly growing species capable of precocious flowering, sometimes flowering while still a seedling and it may flower throughout the year (Weber, 2003). The World Agroforestry Centre (2002) report that flowering is between March-May in the northern hemisphere, while some forms flower throughout the summer. M. azedarach is usually deciduous during winter except in some humid tropical locations like Malaysia and Tonga where it is evergreen (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). In India, old leaves are shed during November-December with a new flush from March-May (Troup, 1921), whilst in Australia leaf-fall commences in autumn with complete leaf shed by winter (March-June) (Moncur et al., 1990). In Brazil, Piccolo and Gregolim (1980) report that leaf fall is July-August and leaf flush September-December. Flowers in India appear from March-April with fruit ripening during winter (December-January) and remaining on the tree in yellow clusters during the next flowering season (Troup, 1921; Gupta, 1993). In Australia, flowering occurs in spring (July-September) with seed set between March-June (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). In Brazil, flowering occurs between September-October and fruiting December-May.

Reproductive Biology

The flowering system is monoecious (Cronk and Fuller, 1995). Seed production is prolific and avian vectors disperse the seed, and seedlings are able to establish below the canopy of the parent plant (Brown and Gubb, 1986). There are 1400-3500 fruit per kg (air dried) and 4000-13,000 seeds per kg (National Academy of Sciences, 1983). The seeds may retain their viability for up to two years (Anon., 2001). M. azedarach regenerates rapidly from seed and by suckering giving rise to its potential as a weed. A high proportion of the seeds germinate (Anon., 2001).

Environmental Requirements

M. azedarach is highly adaptable and tolerates a wide range of climatic and soil conditions whether natural or cultivated, and is generally found in tropical, sub-tropical and warm-temperate climates mostly associated with seasonally dry conditions. Ahmed and Idris (1997) gives climatic indicators for this species: mean maximum temperature of the hottest month may reach 39°C, the mean minimum temperature of the coldest month -5°C. National Academy of Sciences (1983) states that young trees are frost tender, but older trees resist frost (to a minimum of -15°C). In eastern coastal Australia the mean maximum temperature of the hottest month is 26-32°C and the mean minimum of the coolest month is 3-10°C and up to 19°C for northern areas (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). Frost occurrence is extremely variable. On the coast and to about 450 m elevation in northern Queensland it is frost-free, and elsewhere there are mainly 1 to 15 frosts per year. The species is drought hardy with an annual rainfall ranging from (385-) 600 to 2000 mm. In India, rainfall is mainly during the monsoon season (Gupta, 1993). Where rainfall is less than 600 mm, as in part of the Middle East, it performs well on wet soils along rivers and under irrigation (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). In Australia, Doran and Turnbull (1997) report the mean annual rainfall is mainly 800-1200 mm and up to 2400 mm for northern coastal areas. In drier inland localities annual rainfall is 385-570 mm. There is an average of 105 to 120 rainy days per year concentrated in the summer months.

The species grows on a wide range of soils, but best growth is obtained on well-drained, deep, sandy loam while shallow gravelly soils stunt the growth (National Academy of Sciences, 1983; Gupta, 1993). M. azedarach tolerates shallow soils, saline and strongly alkaline soils, but not very acid soils. In Australia, it occurs on mainly acid and neutral red earths, acidic red friable earths (krasnozems) and shallow loamy soils (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). It is found on poor, marginal, sloping, and stony ground, even in crevices and sheer rock. In Australia, it occurs on dissected plateaus of basalt, sandstone or metamorphic, undulating low hilly country with alluvial and sandy plains, to coastal lowlands with alluvial plains. It is commonly found along stream banks, in valleys and on the lower slopes of coastal ranges (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). In India, it generally occurs in the Himalayas up to 1800 m elevation but up to 2700 m in Himachal Pradesh (Goor and Barney, 1968; Troup and Joshi, 1981), and Pakistan at altitudes between 700 and 1000 m.

Associations

M. azedarach occurs in seasonal forest, including bamboo thickets, Tamarindus and Eucalyptus woodland (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). The distribution of M. azedarach in Thailand and Laos is associated with mixed deciduous forests. In Australia it is widely distributed as single and scattered trees in, or on the margins of closed-forest (rain forest) (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). In New South Wales it is found in riverain, dry and littoral rain forest (Floyd, 1979) and in northern Queensland in rain forest formations (Tracey, 1982).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 -34 0 1800

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -15
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 23 26
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 26 39
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -5 11

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration48number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6002400mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page M. azedarach is generally unaffected by herbivores and pathogens (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). Bacterial and fungal diseases have been observed on leaves, twigs and fruit but no serious damage is reported. M. azedarach var. australasica is subject to periodic defoliation by the larvae of the white cedar moth (Leptocneria reducta) and a spider mite (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). In field trials conducted near Gympie in southeast Queensland, Ryan and Bell (1989) reported that a number of woody species including M. azedarach var. australasica suffered frequent and extensive defoliation by insects. During the 1980s in Paraguay, a witches' broom type of growth deformity in plantations of M. azedarach developed due to infection by a mycoplasma (Brune, 1989). The roots are chiefly superficial and the tree is liable to be blown down under strong winds. M. azedarach suffers from varying degrees of frost, but not to the same extent as A. indica.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Local dissemination is mainly by birds which are known to disperse M. azedarach seeds (Weber, 2003). As this is one of the few genuinely multipurpose tree species it has been widely introduced and has now achieved a wide global distribution.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Impact

Top of page No precise information is available but control of M. azedarach is expensive, making some techniques impractical.

Environmental Impact

Top of page M. azedarach leaf litter may alter soil chemistry, with increased pH and mineralizable nitrogen (Anon., 2001).

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page M. azedarach is a rapidly growing species that is able to form thick monospecific stands which prevent the regeneration of native plants (Weber, 2003).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Nototrichium humile (kaala rockwort)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesNational Tropical Botanical Garden, 2007; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008
Peucedanum sandwicense (makou)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011a
Plantago hawaiensis (Hawai'i plantain)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996
Pteralyxia kauaiensis (Kauai pteralyxia)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Schiedea hookeri (sprawling schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011b
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b

Social Impact

Top of page M. azedarach flowers are a respiratory irritant and the leaves, bark, flowers and fruit are poisonous (Henderson, 2001), though not all trees are reported to produce toxic fruit (Anderson, 1993). Most cases of poisoning have been in pigs (Everist, 1974; Ottino and Renner, 1997), but there are also reports of poisoning in sheep, cattle and dogs. Ahmed and Idris (1997) report that the fruits are toxic to warm-blooded animals, and poisoning has also been reported in children who have eaten the fruits (Cremer, 1990). The flowers may cause discomfort to asthma sufferers, and the wood dust can induce dermatitis (Cunningham et al., 1992). Annual lopping of the branches will reduce the danger as flowering is confined to second-year wood.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

Top of page M. azedarach is a useful tree for farm and amenity planting, shade, including areas subject to drought conditions. It is one of only a handful of species that are truly multipurpose and accepted by communities in arid and semi-arid parts of the world where it is very difficult to successfully grow trees (Milimo, 1994, 1995). In Vietnam it is one of the most common trees found in home gardens and in India it is frequently cultivated on roadsides. It is also suitable for use in windbreaks and in avenue plantings. In the Philippines it is planted as a shade tree in coffee and abaca (Musa textilis) crops (Ahmed and Idris, 1997). Under a forest village programme in Thailand, known as the taunga reforestation method, combinations of trees and crops are grown together. M. azedarach was one of the main species used (3 out of 4 regions) in combination with cassava, maize, sorghum, coffee, cashew nuts, banana, pineapples and other crops (Watanabe et al., 1988). In India, M. azedarach is used for planting dry, eroded hill slopes between 900-1500 m elevation in the Himalayas (Troup and Joshi, 1981). In Jammu and Kashmir it has been successfully used in the afforestation of bare south and south westerly slopes near Srinagar.

The timber is soft, pinkish to yellow-brown resembling mahogany, with prominent growth rings which give it a fairly decorative appearance (Anderson, 1993). The wood is relatively strong, easily worked and light in weight (Keating and Bolza, 1982). Pearson and Brown (1932) note that the timber air-seasons exceptionally well, is durable, easy to saw and peel. A description of the wood structure for both M. azedarach and M. composita is also given by Pearson and Brown (1932). The wood lasts from 1 to 15 years in the ground and is rarely attacked by termites though the sapwood is susceptible to Lyctus borer. In Australia, the species has been used for framing and boards, flooring, cabinet work, fixtures and interior joinery (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). Under tropical conditions in the Americas it has been grown for the production of fibreboard (Pennington et al., 1981). It is utilized for panelling in Sri Lanka and is important in the sporting goods industry of Pakistan. In Thailand, the wood is used for the manufacture of hardboard and plywood (Simsiri and Namsawath, 1993). It is a good species for domestic fuelwood (Keating and Bolza, 1982).

M. azedarach has been widely attributed with medicinal qualities and contains compounds with anti-feedant and growth-disruption properties in insects. The main bioactive compounds are azadirachtin, salannin and meliantriol, which also occur in A. indica (Milimo, 1994, 1995). However, Ahmed and Idris (1997) report information that indicates that azadirachtin, the most important compound in A. indica, is absent in M. azedarach. This conflicts with a paper by Huang et al. (1995) which reports that a new limonoid, azedarachin C, isolated from the bark of M. azedarach, and the work of Cabral et al. (1995), reporting the extraction of azadirachtin-A from M. azedarach seed collected in Brazil. The author states that this seed source is unlike some geographical strains which appear to lack azadirachtin-A. This highlights that chemotypes are present in M. azedarach and that there is a need to undertake studies into variation in the species.

Extracts from the fruit have long been used as an insecticide on crops. Gupta (1993) reports that the leaves, bark and fruits are placed inside books and woollen garments to repel insects. In Ghana, it is used to protect cocoa beans against infestation by Ephesia. Chen et al. (1996) provides information on the toxic benefits of M. azedarach fruits extracts on the larvae of the diamond back moth, Plutella xylostella. Extract from M. azedarach fruits for control of cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis in Egypt was noted by Salam and Ahmed (1997). Chen et al. (1995) reported on the antifeedant and growth inhibitory effects of toosendanin, a limonoid allelochemical extracted from the bark of M. azedarach and M. toosendan on Peridroma saucia, a variegated cutworm. Extracts from the leaves of M. azedarach and A. indica are reported to control pests including locusts. Ginting et al. (1995) discuss different concentration of leaf extract on the control of Setothosea asigna larvae on oil palm seedlings. Ramakrishnan et al. (1995) notes that following the application of leaf extracts from six species, A. indica followed by M. azedarach were the most effective in reducing levels of root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita). Leaf extracts of A. indica were more effective in protecting tomato fruits from fungi than M. azedarach (Sharma and Sharma, 1995). The degree of rotting was lower in treated compared with untreated fruits.

Although there has been confusion with A. indica, M. azedarach has been widely attributed with medicinal value (Mabberley et al., 1995). The bark is reported to produce a drug that expels intestinal worms. The root appears as 'Cortex Meliae azedarach' in pharmacopoeias, but it is generally held that the bark is more productive. Bark, leaves and roots have been used for medicinal purposes, such as in the treatment of rheumatism, fever, swellings and inflammation (Lassak and McCarthy, 1983). A glycopeptide called meliacin isolated from the leaves and roots is responsible for inhibition of in-vitro replication of various DNA and RNA viruses, e.g. polio virus (Mabberley et al., 1995).

The seeds contain an oil high in linoleic acid (65-82%) and oleic acid. They also yield a greenish-yellow bitter oil (Troup and Joshi, 1981) and the trunk a gum but these have been little utilized, though the first is suitable for soap and hair oil. The flowers are attractive to bees for pollen and honey (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). Anderson (1993) records that the Aborigines of the Tully River area of north Queensland used the bruised bark and leaves as a fish poison, which was reported to act fairly rapidly. Gupta (1993) reports that a form of whisky is made from the fruits. The stone of the fruits is used as a bead in necklaces and rosaries. M. azedarach leaves are reported to be palatable and nutritious for stock with in vivo dry matter digestibility of 77% (Vercoe and Boland, 1989).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil improvement
  • Windbreak

Fuels

  • Fuelwood

General

  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora
  • Spices and culinary herbs

Materials

  • Carved material
  • Essential oils
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to mammals
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Wood Products

Top of page

Containers

  • Crates

Furniture

Roundwood

  • Roundwood structures

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • Exterior fittings
  • Flooring
  • For light construction

Veneers

Wood-based materials

  • Plywood

Woodware

  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles
  • Toys

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page M. azedarach is often confused with the neem tree Azadirachta indica, to which it is related. A. indica is, however, easily distinguished by the absence of stellate leaf hairs, pinnate leaves (not bipinnate as in M. azedarach), 3-lobed stigmas (not 5-lobed) and 1- to 2-seeded drupes (not up to 5-seeded).

Prevention and Control

Top of page M. azedarach is fire sensitive to the extent that even 10 m tall trees can be killed by ground fire; however, Anon. (2001) note that there is no information on whether fire could be used as a management tool. According to Weber (2003) seedlings may be removed by hand, but Anon. (2001) regard attempted mechanical control of larger plants and mature trees as an ineffective practice because of the abiltiy to resprout from both root and stem suckers. Triclopyr herbicide may be used to control mature tree (Weber, 2003), and effective modes of application include basal bark treatment and pasting herbicides onto cut stumps, though whereas foliar applications may kill M. azedarach, the cost of such a practice is usually too high as stump treatments may need to be repeated (Anon., 2001). Henderson (2001) reports that methods of biological control are being investigated in South Africa.

References

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Cabral MMO, Garcia ES, Kelecom A, 1995. Lignanes from the Brazilian Melia azedarach, and their activity in Rhodnius prolixus (Hemiptera, Reduviidae). Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, 90(6):759-763; 26 ref

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Chen W, Isman MB, Chiu SF, 1995. Antifeedant and growth inhibitory effects of the limonoid toosendanin and Melia toosendan extracts on the variegated cutworm, Peridroma saucia (Lep., Noctuidae). Journal of Applied Entomology, 119(5):367-370

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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