Family: Meliaceae

Only one species of this small genus of shrubs and trees from the rainforests of Asia, India and Australia is widely cultivated. It is grown in most warm countries of the world as a shade tree or ornamental. The timber is used for making furniture, while the bark and leaves are used medicinally in some countries.


M. azedarach, Persian lilac or white cedar, is a deciduous tree which grows 12-20 m (40-65 ft) tall. Sprays of fragrant, lilac flowers in late spring are followed by large, deep green, pinnate leaves and yellow berries. The berries are extremely toxic if eaten. Var. australasica, white cedar, an Australian native to 12 m (40 ft), is widely grown in warmer areas of Australia as a street tree. Very adaptable, it can withstand drought as it matures. Cultivar 'Umbraculiformis', Texas umbrella tree, produces pendulous foliage in the shape of an umbrella, giving this tree its common name.


In frost-prone climates, grow in an intermediate conservatory or greenhouse as a foliage specimen, as it may not flower under glass. Use soil-based, potting compost. Ensure maximum light, but shade from direct strong sun. Prune back in late winter to restrict size if necessary. Outdoors, plant in a rich, well-drained, moist soil in a sunny situation. Propagate from seed in spring or softwood cuttings in summer, with bottom heat for both.


Zone 10.

Click to view map of zones
Climate zone map
Melastoma      Melianthus