Bead tree

At this time of year the berries of the bead tree, Melia azedrach, become very obvious after the leaves have fallen. This species is native to south-east Asia but has adapted well to Mediterranean conditions and grows widely in parks and gardens here. Today I had a close look at a row of the trees growing in the car park in the village of Laurens. The golden berries, turning to white as the winter progresses, look lovely against the clear blue sky we commonly have at this time of year, however cold it gets (although it was very warm today).

bead tree-2

bead tree-1

bead tree-3


Also known as the chinaberry tree or cape lilac, the bead tree name comes from the use of the seeds to make rosary beads before plastic was widely used. I found some of the berries on the ground and brought them home to extract the seed from one of them. I was careful to wash my hands well after handling the berries as they are poisonous, and the leaves of the tree are described as ‘highly poisonous’. Inside the thin flesh of the berry, the seed did look like a small bead:

bead tree-4




9 thoughts on “Bead tree

  1. I know them as Chinaberry trees or Chinese Tallow trees. They grow wildly (invasively) in Louisiana and Texas. You’ve made wonderful use of sequence, that third picture being a real dazzler! Takes my breath!

  2. Intriguing to think of the berries used as rosary beads in the past, despite being poisonous — and that the trees are common in parks and gardens there, despite both the leaves and berries being poisonous!

    That said, I’m deeply in love with the images of yellow berries against blue sky!

  3. I have a big Chinaberry tree in my yard. They grow like weeds around here (central Texas) and can be worrisome as they tend to split and fall on, oh houses and cars and things. I love mine, though, and I think they are beautiful! Didn’t know about the “beads” – interesting. And, they may be poisonous to humans but the birds love ’em! Happy New Year!

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