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Melia azedarach L.

Melia azedarach L.

Family

Meliaceae

Synonyms

Melia sempervirens (L.) Sw., Melia dubia Cavanilles, Melia composita Willd.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia

Mindi keciI.

English Chinaberry, Persian lilac, pride of India.
Indonesia

Gringging, mindi (Java), marambung (Sumatra).

Philippines

Paraiso, balagango (Tagalog), bagalunga (Bisaya).

Singapore Mindi kechil.
Cambodia Dâk' hiën, sdau khmaôch.
Laos

H'ienx, kadau s'a:ngz.

Thailand

Lian, lian-baiyai (cen­tral), khian (northern).

Vietnam C[aa]y xoan, xoan d[aa]u, s[aaf]u d[oo]ng.

Geographical Distributions

Melia aze­darach is a widely distributed tree, probably of South Asian origin, occurring widely in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions. It is found wild in the Himalayan foothills of India and Pakistan at altitudes of 700-1000 m, widely scat­tered in China, through Malaysia to the Solomon Islands and northern and eastern Australia. It is naturalised in a wide belt in the cooler parts of eastern and southern Africa, in the Americas from Argentina to the southern United States and Hawaii, and throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean as far north as Croatia and south­ern France. The most frost-tolerant cultivars can be planted outdoors in sheltered areas in the British Isles.

Description

Melia aze­darach is a deciduous tree that can reach up to 45 m tall. Its bole flutes below when old, and measures up to 60(-120) cm in diametre. The bark is grey-brown, smooth, lenticellate, and becomes lightly fissured or scally with age. The inner bark consists of yellowish, whitish sapwood and rusty brown hardwood. The crown is widely spread with sparsely branched limbs. The twigs are upturned at the end of drooping branchlets, smooth, brown, lenticellate and with raised cicatrices. The leafy twigs are with fulvous stellate hairs.

The leaves are bipinnate, occasionally wholly or partly tripinnate, more or less opposite, measure (15-)23­80 cm long and nearly hairless. The petiole is 8-30 cm long, cylindrical, lenticellate and swollen at the base. The pinnae is in 3-7 pairs and measures up to 25 cm long. The petiolule is 3-7 mm long. The leaflets are in 3-7 pairs, opposite or nearly so, ovate or oblong-Iance-shaped to elliptical and measuring 2-10 cm x 0.6-3.8 cm. The base is slightly unequilateral, with acute to rounded, acuminate apex while the margin is entire to variously ser­rate.

The inflorescence is a thyrse, axillary or in axil of rudimentary leaves on short shoots. It is 10-22 cm long with the primary branches 5-7.5 cm long while the secondary branches are up to 2 cm long and bear fascicles of flow­ers. The bracts are 3-10 mm long, slender and caducous. The bracteoles are similar but smaller. The pedicel is 2-3 mm long. The flowers are purplish, fragrant, bisexual or male and 5-merous. The sepal is tubular, measures about 2 mm in diametre, with lobes about 2 mm long, with exterior stellate and simple hairs. The petals are free, narrowly oblong, measuring 6-10 mm x 2 mm, white to lilac or bluish and minutely pubescent outside. The staminal tube is about 7 mm long, from lilac turns to deep purple, with smooth exterior and with dense simple hairs throughout the interior. The 10 anthers are sessile. The pistil is hairless. The 5-lobed stigma is club-shaped.

The fruit is a drupe, ellipsoid-spherical, measuring 2-4 cm x 1-2 cm, yellow-brown when ripens, smooth and up to 5-seeded. The seed is oblongoid, measuring 3.5 mm x 1.6 mm, smooth and brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

The natural habitat of Melia azedarach is seasonal forests, including bamboo thickets, Ta­marindus woodland and Eucalyptus savanna. Its natural occurrence from the Himalayan foothills of Baluchistan (Pakistan) and Kashmir (India) to the lowland of Papua New Guinea indicates that it is highly adaptable and tolerates a wide range of conditions. The mean maximum temperature of the hottest month may reach 39°C, while the mean min­imum temperature of the coldest month is -5°C, al­though many forms only tolerate a narrower range. In eastern coastal Australia, M. azedarach oc­curs where the mean maximum temperature of the hottest month is 26-32°C and the mean mini­mum temperature of the coldest month 3-100°C. Young trees are sensitive to frost, but old ones tol­erate up to -15°C. It is generally found from 0-1200 m altitude, and in the Himalayas up to 1800(-2200) m. Annual rainfall in its natural habitat ranges from 600-2000 mm.

In Africa, it is planted as a drought-tolerant shade tree and or­nament. M. azedarach is widely distributed in the drier parts of the southern and south-western United States, while in humid Florida, it is self­ sowing and considered a weed. Where annual rainfall is less than 600 mm, as in parts of the Middle East, it performs well on wet soils along rivers and under irrigation. M. azedarach toler­ates seasonal waterlogging and is even reported from permanently waterlogged sites. Strong winds may break off limbs. Although optimal growth is obtained on well drained, deep, sandy loams, M. azedarach toler­ates shallow soils, saline and strongly alkaline soils, but not very acid soils. Reports on its toler­ance of heavy clays are contradictory. It is found on poor, marginal, sloping, and stony land, even in crevices in sheer rock.

Line Drawing / Photograph

Melia_azedarach

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.11: Auxiliary plants.

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