Melia azedarach L.

Persian lilac, chinaberry tree, pride of India
Meliaceae
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HermaphroditeToxic


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Melia azedarach
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Melia azedarach: Appearance of a young specimen in spring; the fruits are from the previous year

Appearance of a young specimen in spring; the fruits are from the previous yearBipinnate leaf with irregularly serrate leaflets Detailed view of a flower with 5 sepals, 5 long and narrow petals in a star pattern, and 10 stamens fused together to form a purple tube  with 20 teeth at the apex; the anthers and the pistil are inside the tubeBranch with drupes with long pedicels; in mature drupes, the pericarp is wrinkled and has lenticels
Etymology

Melia: From "melía" (Gr.), the name of several species of ash, because of the similarity of their leaves

azedarach: latinization of the ancient Persian name of this tree

Description

Habit: Decidous tree 10-15 m tall; the trunk has dark, fissured bark.

Leaves: alternate, deciduous, bipinnate, 20-60 cm long, petiolate, with 30-60 leaflets 2-7 cm long x 1-3 cm wide, ovate or elliptic, acute and ± acuminate at the apex, with irregularly serrate margins, hairy or glabrate.

Flowers: hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, 5-merous, hypogynous, flagrant, arranged in axillary panicle-shaped inflorescences 10-20 cm long, with very short pedicels, sepals only fused at the base, free lilac petals 0.7-1.3 cm long, 10 stamens fused at the base, forming a cylindrical dark purple staminal column; gynoecium syncarpous, 4-8 locular, with a superior ovary; style as long as the staminal column and located inside it; stigma lobed.

Fruit: drupe 1-2 cm in diam., globose, yellowish-brown, with 2-5 seeds.

Phenology

It flowers between the end of spring and summer; the drupes mature in autumn or winter.

Geographic origin

Native to S and E Asia and N Oceania.

Observations

It is an ornamental tree that is often cultivated because of the shade it provides and its abundant and fragrant flowers. It is considerably resistant to drought and heat. It tends to become naturalized. The fruits can be toxic if they are consumed in certain amounts and are used to obtain an extract with insecticide properties that is used in organic agriculture.

It is propagated from seeds, root suckers and cuttings.

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