Transport yourself, if you will, to the forests of Asia and northern Australia. Worlds away, perhaps, from what you know. Let the peaceful quiet surround you only to be occasionally broken by the call of some tropical birds on the wing. As you take in the experience you begin to inhale the swirling fragrance of something familiar yet different. Delicate notes of a lilac fragrance with a tropical twist fill the air. You look above and only, at first, notice the dappled warm sunlight streaming through breaks in the tree canopy overhead. As you adjust your focus, you then begin to notice fine sprays of white flowers tinged in purples and blushed with pink color peppering the tropical forest foliage above. The intoxicating fragrance you savor falls from these delicate flowers. These flowers belong to the tropical forest tree known as Melia azedarach. This tree has many common names...Pride-Of-India, Texas Umbrella-Tree and Persian Lilac to name a few. I recently discovered this beautiful tree while walking the verdantly lush neighborhoods of Pasadena. Its scent lured me like a moth to a flame.
Melia azedarach is in the Mahogany family. It could be considered a tropical version of an Ash-like tree. This sometimes semi-evergreen/deciduous tree can grow up to 25 feet tall and wide. It outfits itself in gorgeous, smooth textured pinnate leaves on 2-3 foot stems giving it a lush yet graceful look. As it matures, its canopy can take on a form resembling an inside-out umbrella. Now, many consider this tree to be a weedy, invasive thing. I'm of the mind that if you control something like this and keep it in check it can serve as a beautiful specimen. As the saying goes, one person's trash is another one's treasure. Melia azedarach likes full sun, fertile, well-draining soil, and is hardy down to 5 degrees fahrenheit/-15 degrees celsius. One other thing to note about this tree is that after flowering it sets bead-like fruit that is toxic to all animals except birds. Now, I know this can turn people off, but you should know that there are great numbers of plants we grow in our homes, gardens, and offices that are just as toxic. My advice, when it comes to any plant, always research what you're growing or buying. Like anything else in nature, respect your plants and they'll respect you in return. Doing so with a tree as beautiful and fragrant as Melia azedarach is so worthwhile.