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Scientific name:Melia azedarach (Meliaceae)
Alternative common names:
Seringa; Persian lilac; bead tree; berry tree; Cape lilac; China berry; China tree; white cedar (English), maksering; sering; bessieboom (Afrikaans), umsilinga (isiZulu)
A large spreading tree growing up to 23m high with reddish-brown, smooth bark. It has serrated dark glossy green leaves which turn yellow in autumn and clusters of purple to lilac flowers which are heavily scented and appear from September-November. Numerous green berries on turn yellow and wrinkled at the end of the season. The leaves, bark, flowers and ripe fruits are poisonous. This tree invades savanna, roadsides, urban open spaces, waste areas and river banks
Where does this species come from?Asia to Australia; the form in southern Africa is an Indian cultivar
What is its invasive status in South Africa?CARA 2002 – Category 3 NEMBA – a. Category 1b b. 3 in urban areas.
Where in South Africa is it a problem?Widespread throughout all provinces in South Africa
How does it spread?Fruits are spread by birds, other animals, water and human activities
Why is it a problem?It competes with and replaces indigenous species. The abundant and prolific growth of this species at the expense of the native flora and fauna could have serious consequences for the preservation of biodiversity. Dense stands along watercourses are likely to reduce stream flow. Indigenous birds could neglect the dispersal of indigenous plants as a consequence of their preference for the fruits of this alien species. The effective seed dispersal by water enables this species to invade protected areas far from the parent plant
What does it look like?General description: A large spreading tree growing up to 23m high with reddish-brown, smooth bark. Leaves: Serrated dark glossy green leaves which turn yellow in autumn. Flowers: Clustered purple to lilac flowers and heavily scented appearing from September-November. Fruit/Seeds: Green berries which turn yellow and wrinkled at the end of the season
Does the plant have any uses?Birds eat the fruits and it is used as an ornamental and shade
Plant me instead alternatives
Cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense), pompom tree (Dais cotinifolia), mountain seringa (Kirkia wilmsii), white seringa (Kirkia acuminata), lowveld chestnut (Sterculia murex), lavender tree (Heteropyxis natalensis)