Practical information to identify and manage non-native, invasive plants and animals
The Quiet Invasion:
A Guide to Invasive Species of the Galveston Bay Area
Chinaberry, pride of India, Indian lilac, umbrella tree
Melia azedarach

USDA Symbol:MEAZ
ITIS TSN:29024
Presence:Current Invaders
Habitat:Terrestrial
Native Range:Southeast Asia and Northern Australia
Toxic Characteristics
Produces toxins in the fruit, bark, leaves and flowers. Poisoning usually occurs with ingestion of fruits. Known to cause intestinal distress, convulsions, and even death.
Geographic Distribution
Located across the entire southern contiguous United States including Texas, plus Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Extends as far north as New York. Present in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed in Harris and Galveston counties.
Introduction Pathways
Brought to the southeastern United States in the 1830s and later to Texas as a fast-growing ornamental and shade tree. Continues to be introduced by ornamental plantings.
Specific Primary Habitats
Tolerates a wide variety of soils as well as partial shade. Common along roadsides, abandoned or disturbed fields, forest edges, and at old homesites. Highly tolerant of heat and drought.
Identifying Characteristics
The bark of this tree is reddish-brown, with fissures on mature trees. Leaves are compound with leaflets dark blue-green, pointed, and toothed. Individual leaflets are 2 in. long and less than 0.5 in. wide. Flowers are 5-petaled, mildly scented, and lilac-colored, with a central purple filament tube. Fruit is a round berry, green when immature, and yellow when mature.
Reproduction Characteristics
Reproduces on-site primarily from root sprouts, and over longer distances via bird-dispersed seeds. Reproductively mature when it reaches the size of a shrub. Flowers in the spring, fruits in the summer. Fruit remain on the tree past leaf fall.
Growth Characteristics
Chinaberry is a very fast growing tree that reaches 18 - 24 feet in height in 4 - 5 years. May reach 50 - 60 feet in total height.
Ecological, Economic, or Social Impact
Chinaberry outcompetes native vegetation due to its high relative resistance to insects and pathogens. Its leaf litter raises soil pH, thus altering soil conditions for native plants and seed germination.
Control
The most effective chemical controls are cut-stump and basal bark applications of triclopyr herbicides. Cut trees left untreated will grow back with several branches emanating from a single stump. Removal of seedlings must include the entire root system.

Native Species Alternatives
Below is a list of alternative plants that are native to the area:
  • Red mulberry (Morus rubra)
  • Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana)
  • Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)
This species belongs to the following lists:
Images
To view a larger version of an image, click on the thumbnail.
Close-up of compound leaf and leaflets of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0016028.
Close-up of compound leaf and leaflets of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0016028.
Bark of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0016030.
Bark of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 0016030.
A full-grown chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of Chuck Bargeron, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1237043.
A full-grown chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of Chuck Bargeron, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1237043.
Close-up of flowers of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1380478.
Close-up of flowers of the chinaberry tree. Photo courtesy of Chris Evans, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 1380478.
A chinaberry tree in fruit. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307036.
A chinaberry tree in fruit. Photo courtesy of James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 2307036.
A chinaberry fruit cluster. Photo courtesy of Cheryl McCormick, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 3694003.
A chinaberry fruit cluster. Photo courtesy of Cheryl McCormick, The University of Georgia, www.forestryimages.org; Image Number 3694003.
Page Updated/Reviewed: 07/14/2010 8:33 AM
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