Common Name
China berry, Persian lilac, white cedar, Texas umbrella tree
Botanic Name
Melia azedarach L.
Plant Family
Birds spread the seed readily and so the trees are often found in waste areas, fence lines etc. It is often grown as an ornamental tree.
Southern tier of States. Worldwide in mild climates.
Animals Affected
Pigs, cattle, horses, dogs, rabbits and possibly any animal that eats the seeds or bark.
Chinaberry fruits
Toxic Principle
Melia toxins A & B (tetranortriterepenes)are present in the seeds and bark, minimally in the leaves. These compounds can cause muscle contractions, tremors, collapse and death when ingested in large quantity. At lower doses, salivation, vomiting, colic and diarrhea are more likely.
Introduced from Asia, Melia are deciduous, branching trees growing to heights of 30-40 feet. Leaves are twice pinnately compound with 50+ ovate to elliptic leaflets. The inflorescence is a loose panicle consisting of numerous, fragrant, white-lavender flowers with 5-6 sepals and 5-6 petals. Fruits are oval drupes turning yellowish brown when ripe and containing 1 seed.
Vomiting and diarrhea. Gaseous distension of the stomach.
Muscle tremors, ataxia, excitement followed by collapse and paralysis. Seizures may occur
Nothing specific! Activated charcoal orally within 2 hours of the seeds being eaten is helpful in preventing absorbtion of the meliatoxins. Dogs that have eaten the berries should be induced to vomit. Supportive fluid therapy is necessary to prevent dehydration if vomiting and diarrhea are severe.Seizures can be controlled with appropriate sedation.
Respiratory System
Labored and irregular respiratory rate
Diagnostic Tests
Nothing specific
Muscle tremors leading to collapse and seizures, signs of gastrointestinal irritation, and evidence of China berry consumption is highly suggestive.
Special Notes
The berries are often produced in large amounts and can persist after the leaves have fallen. It is not advisable to use China berry as shade trees in animal enclosures.
Chinaberry tree branch with fruits