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Natural populations

Melia azedarach is widespread east of the Great Dividing Range of eastern Australia. It extends south from the Cooktown region of north Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales [1]. Most occurrences are within 100 km of the coast. Melia azedarach is a tall tree up to 45 m tall on favourable sites but only 10-15 m tall on adverse sites. It favours acidic, well-drained clayey or loamy soils. This species has become naturalised in a number of areas such as southern parts of South Australia.

Flowering and seeds

This species flowers during spring; ripe fruit are present during March to June [1]. There are about 5 viable seeds per 10 grams; seeds start to germinate in about 10 days if grown at 30°C with no pretreatment required [2].

Cultivation and uses

Melia azedarach is a fast growing tree which can be grown on wide range of well-drained soils [1]. It is deciduous, relatively drought and frost tolerant. Because of its ornamental value it is often planted as a street tree. The wood is suitable for cabinet work and the foliage has potential as stock fodder [1]. This species has potential for weediness [3] and its fruits are toxic [1].

Key descriptors:
Climate parameters
Annual rainfall: 800-1200 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer, uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 17-26 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 26-32 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 3-10 °C
Frosts: frost free or more or less frost free or up to 20 per year
Frost intensity: frost free or light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-900 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Fire: regenerates foliage after damaging fire
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Wind: tolerates salt-laden coastal winds
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, heavy clay (greater than 50% clay), light to medium clay (35-50% clay), loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5), neutral (6.5-7.5) or alkaline (greater than 7.5)
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm) or moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained
Salinity: non-saline
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: acidity or alkalinity
Extremes in texture: clayey or sand
Salinity: nil - sensitive to saline soils
Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils
Biological traits under cultivation
Growth rate: fast
Habit: deciduous, shrub or tree 5-10 m tall, tree 10-20 m tall or tree > 20 m tall
Longevity: moderate to long lived (>15 years)
Coppicing ability: vigorous, responds to pruning, pollarding
Erosion control potential: excellent for clayey sites or excellent for sandy sites
Windbreak potential: tolerates salty coastal winds
Root system: forms root suckers
Shade tolerance: grows best in full sunlight
Wood density: low (less than 600 kg/cubic metre)
Carbon sequestration potential: low-moderate
Uses
Potential farm use: good for fence posts or good ornamental attributes
Urban use: good as an ornamental or amenity plant or suitable as a screen or hedge
Wood products: flooring (including parquetry), light construction, panelling, posts (including fencing), speciality timber for quality furniture
Potentially undesirable attributes
Growth habit: mod. to strong propensity to root sucker, shallow roots may outcompete adjacent plants
Susceptibility to disease or predation: foliage highly susceptible to insect predation or pathogenic leaf diseases
Weediness: potential high based on its biology

References

[1] Doran JC, Turnbull JW (eds.) (1997) Australian Trees and Shrubs: species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra [ACIAR books online:http://www.aciar.gov.au/publication/MN024 Accessed Feb. 2008].

[2] Gunn BV (2001) Australian Tree Seed Centre Operations Manual. Internal Publication, CSIRO Australian Tree Seed Centre, ACT. [Online at http://www.ensisjv.com/Portals/0/atsc-opmanualcomplete.pdf  Accessed March 2008]

[3] Thorp JR, Wilson M (1998 onwards) Weeds Australia - www.weeds.org.au

Internet links

ABRS Species Bank: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/species-bank/sbank-treatment2.pl?id=15221

eFloraSA Electronic Flora of South Australia: http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/texhtml.cgi?form=speciesfacts&family=Meliaceae&genus=Melia&species=azedarach

PlantNET National Herbarium of New South Wales: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Melia~azedarach

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melia_azedarach

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