Invasive Watch: Chinaberry (Melia azedarach)
What to Look For.
Chinaberry, also called pride-of-India, umbrella-tree and Persian lilac, is a fast-growing tree that can grow up to 50 feet tall. Its twigs are slightly purple with light-brown spots. Its large leaves are long-stalked and doubly compounded, starting blue-green in color and turning golden-yellow in the fall. Individual leaflets are toothed and pointed. Flowers are small with five narrow pink petals surrounding a central purple-red tube and appear in clusters at the end of branches in early spring. The fruit is a drupe and is light yellow at maturity. Extracts from chinaberry’s leaves and bark have been used for medicinal purposes.
Where It’s Found.
Chinaberry was introduced into the United States in Charleston, South Carolina in the late 1700s. It’s adaptable to many environmental conditions and is virtually disease- and insect-free. It thrives in disturbed or open areas and can frequently be found on roadsides and on rural home sites throughout the Southeast. Chinaberry is also common in forested areas and will establish in open pine stands following treatment of the area for other invasive species, such as kudzu.
Chinaberry trees produce abundant seeds, which are commonly spread by birds and water, when trees are located near running water. Seeds are able to withstand drying out and still germinate several years later. It’s also capable of reproducing vegetatively when cut, generating suckers that will eventually form a dense stand of vegetation.
How to Treat It.
Apply 1.5 percent v/v of Vastlan™1 specialty herbicide to chinaberry’s actively growing foliage. Another effective treatment option is 2 percent v/v of Garlon® 4 Ultra specialty herbicide, also applied to actively growing foliage. After applying herbicide treatments, it’s recommended that you wait at least six weeks before mowing.