What is Azadirachta?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Azadirachta is a genus of trees native to Southeast Asia and India. There are two known species in this genus, of which the most important is A. indica, the neem tree. Neem is cultivated all over the world for the production of neem-based products and some gardeners also grow it as an ornamental tree. Some nurseries and garden supplies stock Azadirachta, if they are in a climate where these trees can be grown, and they can also be ordered by special requests from customers.

These trees evolved to live in harsh, hot environments. Azadirachta thrives in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones nine through 11 and grows successfully in drought conditions and in coarse soil. The trees grow quickly, reaching heights of up to 100 feet (approximately 30 meters), with evergreen foliage. The leaves are oblong in shape and serrated, while the small white to cream flowers are carried on slender stalks. Trees in this genus need full sun to partial shade to remain healthy.


Neem has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic tradition in India. Ayurveda is a school of traditional medicine that continues to be practiced in India today. Studies on neem have shown that it can have antibiotic and antifungal properties, and neem is also added to personal care products like shampoos and skincare products. In addition to being used in health and beauty products, neem for plant care is also available, including products for oiling plant leaves to keep them moist and resist insect and fungus infestations.

In nature, Azadirachta has developed a number of defenses to pests. These trees are highly pest resistant and can be easily grown in harsh environments. While severe drought stress can cause them to lose their leaves, they will usually recover. Neem is grown in commercial plantations in some regions of Asia and Africa and it can also be grown as an ornamental tree in similar climates. When grown ornamentally, neem may be used as a single standalone garden feature or as part of a windbreak or privacy screen.

All parts of the neem tree can be used as sources of neem oil and other products. This commercially valuable tree is especially in areas where other agriculture is not possible due to harsh climates and frequent drought conditions. In these communities, Azadirachta can be an important part of the local economy, especially if a processing facility is built to extract useful products from the tree, allowing the community to benefit directly from sales of these products.



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