We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Chinaberry Tree?

By C. Martin
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A chinaberry tree is a colloquial name for the tree Melia azedarach, which grows natively in Australia, China, and India. This plant has a number of other common names, including White Cedar, Persian Lilac, Bead Tree, and Ceylon Cedar. The plant family to which chinaberries belong is called Meliaceae, a group that also includes trees from which mahogany is obtained.

The chinaberry tree is deciduous, which means that it loses its leaves seasonally. When fully grown, it is typically around 33 feet (ten meters) high, but some specimens growing in the rain forests of Australia may reach 150 feet (about 45 meters) in height. When the tree flowers, it has small, sweet-smelling lilac or purple blossoms. These eventually result in an abundance of yellow, berry-like fruits called drupes, which are an important source of food for many species of fruit-eating birds. The flowers, on the other hand, are typically unpalatable for many animals, including bees and butterflies.

Although the fruit of Chinaberry trees is popular with birds, both the fruit and the leaves are poisonous for humans. They contain toxins that damage the nerve cells, and various kinds of poisonous resin substances. The combination of toxins may even be fatal in some instances. In spite of the toxicity of the leaves, in the past they have been used in a dilute infusion of water to treat uterine cramps or period pains.

The chinaberry tree has been introduced to America and some other temperate countries. When it was first brought into the country it was considered an ornamental tree, and in some areas, plants and seeds can still be bought. Due to its toxicity, it is often considered a pest species in many American states to which it has spread. It is a highly invasive tree which has a tendency to spread rapidly, and is extremely difficult to uproot once it is established.

The wood of the chinaberry tree is considered to be of a very high quality. It is typically easy to treat, and produces planks that tend to be relatively immune to some of the common problems encountered in wood products, including fungal growth, warping, and cracking. Before the invention of plastic beads, the hard seeds of the chinaberry tree, sometimes called Chinaberry beads, were often used as beads in the manufacture of necklaces. In Europe, monks even used the seeds to make rosaries.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003813 — On Sep 10, 2020

I grew up with a large chinaberry tree in my front yard that my dad built a tree house in and we never had any problems with toxicity. My dad just told us not to eat the berries and we listened. I would spend hours in that tree making mud pies and potions with my friends in the neighborhood. Very fond memory of my childhood. I was shocked to hear that the leaves were poisonous too and that it was considered an invasive species. Well this is in Az and the tree was already huge when my parents bought the house in 1991 so I don't know who planted it but we all enjoyed the shade it gave us during the hot summer months

By anon974372 — On Oct 17, 2014

Reply to post 4, leaves and fruit of chinaberry trees are toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and horses!

By anon307117 — On Dec 03, 2012

I grew up in inland Australia with a Chinaberry tree in the front yard of our house. It grew into a big, beautiful shady tree in the center of the lawn in front of the house. We had no problems with the toxicity of the leaves or berries, or with it becoming invasive.

By anon285231 — On Aug 14, 2012

I'm from the Texas Southwest and I grew up in a hope with so many of these trees. We called itLila. At least where I lived, each tree had to be transplanted. I never encountered too many of these. True that the berries are poisonous to humans, but I was always told not to eat them for that reason.

By anon174948 — On May 11, 2011

could you tell me if there is anything to worry about? I planted a china berry tree about 30 feet from my well. I did not know the berries and leaves were toxic.

By anon141122 — On Jan 09, 2011

Are these berries bad for puppies to eat?

By TunaLine — On Nov 15, 2010

@closerfan12 -- If you're very concerned about the tree being poisonous or overtaking the garden, why don't you consider going with a species of bush instead?

I have some elderberry bushes in my backyard, and the animals just flock to them, so that would certainly fill that purpose, and elderberries are certainly edible. Other tree options you might want to consider just for sheer ornamentation are the summer red maple tree, or even a eucalyptus.

I think its really up to you -- I happen to be more fond of shrubbery than trees, but there are certainly advantages to using the Chinaberry tree as well. Why don't you ask your client what she wants?

By Planch — On Nov 15, 2010

One of the most clear memories from my childhood is playing under the Chinaberry tree in my grandparents backyard. My cousins and I used to take the seeds out of the middle of the fruit and make "jewelry" for each other, and it was also just so relaxing to sit under the shade of that big tree.

Now I live in the American West, so all I've got are redwood trees, but I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of sitting under that mulberry tree -- every time I hear that song by Mew, Chinaberry tree, I'm always brought back to that time.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, wisegeek -- and very interesting article, to boot!

By closerfan12 — On Nov 15, 2010

I have recently been hired to redesign a home in Australia, and the client would like me to update her garden with native Australian trees and shrubs. Do you think that a chinaberry tree would be a good choice here? Oh, by the way, the lady also wants a tree with fruit, because she wants to attract wildlife to the garden, which is another reason that I thought a chinaberry tree might be a good choice.

I have considered taking some full-size specimens and transplanting them into the yard, but I am afraid that the trees might end up just taking over and choking out all the other trees and shrubs. Also, the client has small children, which would make me a bit leery since the tree can be so poisonous.

What is your opinion? I'm really of two minds here, and would really appreciate any other readers' comments as well.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.