Chinaberry was introduced in the 1800s and is still a popular hedgerow tree but it has jumped out of the garden and moved into natural habitats throughout North Carolina. It is not as common in North Carolina as it is in other southern states but it is a species to keep an eye on. It is usually seen in roadside ditches and along woodland edges. It can tolerate wet soil and has been seen in marshes. The seeds disperse through birds and it reproduces from shoots and forms dense thickets.
This deciduous tree grows up to 50' tall. Its leaves are large compound leaves (1 - 2' long), meaning they are made up of leaflets which are attached to a central stem. The leaflets themselves are also compound. So, the leaves are described as 'double-compound' leaves; sometimes they are even triple compound. Leaflets are lance-shaped and have toothed margins. They turn golden-yellow in fall. The spring blossoms are clusters of fragrant lavender, 5-petaled flowers. The berries are hard, yellow, marble-sized, and poisonous.
Fact Sheet: Chinaberry
Photo credit: flowers: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org, leaf: John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Bugwood.org, berries: Cheryl McCormick, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Photo Credit: Chris Moorman