Skip to content

Melia azedarach

Not many Australian native plants are deciduous but the white cedar is an exception. It is very adaptable in a range of soils and conditions, doing well in most parts of Australia. The leaves turn yellow in late autumn and fall to display the tawny bunches of fruit, which are followed in late spring by new foliage and fragrant sprays of pale mauve flowers.

It is not suitable for a small garden, but if you have a large garden and need a tree which will provide shade and perfume in summer but let the winter warmth in, then why not think about a white cedar?

Bear in mind that white cedar has weedy properties so it is best planted well away from native bushland. It is considered a weed in south-eastern USA, parts of the Pacific and New Zealand. While it is native to northern states of Australia and New South Wales, it has become naturalised both within these states and in Victoria. White cedar can easily invade and naturalise in both disturbed and undisturbed areas. The plant is capable of producing large amounts of bird-dispersed seeds thus enabling it to colonise an area if left unchecked.

This species has caused death in domestic animals and in children. Fruits are most often implicated but the leaves also appear to be toxic

Common namewhite cedar, Persian lilac, chinaberry, umbrella tree
Scientific nameMelia azedarach L.

Genus: Greek name for the ash tree in allusion to the similarity of the leaves. The name came originally from meli = honey, as several species of ash have sweet sap.

Species: The name given by the Persian physician Avecinnia (980-1037) to a poisonous tree.

DistributionIt occurs in South East Asia and in the northern part of Australia mainly in Queensland and eastern New South Wales. It is also found in the Kimberley.
Native habitatOccurs in rainforest, this species is favoured by disturbance and is a conspicuous component of regrowth particularly in some monsoon forests and drier, more seasonal rainforest.
DescriptionA small to medium tree with fragrant mauve flowers.
Flowering/fruitingFlowers in late spring or early summer, fruits appear in late autumn and winter.
Location in gardenYou can see these plants growing among the screen plantings around the Depot and also behind the Marquee Lawn at Lakeside.
Garden ExplorerView Melia azedarach on Garden Explorer