Melia is a genus of fruit-bearing flowering plants that are categorized under the Meliaceae, also known as the mahogany, family. These perennial trees and shrubs mostly grow in regions of Asia, Australia, and southern north Africa, where the climate is warm throughout the year. Five species of plants are on record in this genus. Other names for the genus Melia include China berry and bead tree.
Five- to 8-inch (12- to 30-cm) clusters of lilac or pink star-shaped flowers are produced by these types of plants. The blossoms appear during the spring and last for at least a month. Fragrant smells from these flowers are strongest before they reach full bloom. The green foliage grows to a length of 3 feet (0.9 m) and has small leaflets that are 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm) long. Fruits that grow from Melia plants are inedible and usually poisonous to humans and some mammals.
One of the most popular species among these flowering trees is Melia azedarach. This variety naturally grows all over the regions of India and South Africa. A fully matured azederach, also called Persian lilac, has small and sweet-smelling purple and pink flowers that have exactly five petals. Yellow-brown globular fruits that hang in clusters are most abundant throughout the spring; however, they appeal as food only to birds. The maximum height of an azederach tree is between 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m).
Fallen pieces of fruits and leaf litter from these trees can become a nuisance when they are grown in a garden. Decomposed leaves of Melia plants can also increase the acidity of the soil, creating a less habitable place for some surrounding plants. Trees and shrubs from this genus also have a tendency to invade areas in close proximity because of their rapid nutrient-absorbing property. Planting these trees and shrubs at a distance from other garden plants can reduce these problems. When these plants are propagated in gardens, they are mainly used as ornamental shade trees.
These perennials also provide herbal remedies for certain ailments. Their leaves can be used as a natural antiseptic to small wounds. The broth of the plants has also been utilized for purgative functions against intestinal parasites. Some tribes in Africa plant Melia species near their windows because the scent of the perennials can repel mosquitoes and flies.
Forests and wetlands serve as these plants’ native habitats. Abandoned lots in urban areas are an alternative place of dwelling for these highly adaptive trees. Propagation of Melia plants can be done either by cutting or direct sowing of its seeds.