Bead Tree: A Versatile and Ornamental Plant
The bead tree, also known as chinaberry, pride of India, Cape lilac, or white cedar, is a species of deciduous tree that belongs to the mahogany family. It is native to Indomalaya and Australasia, but has been introduced to many other regions of the world as an ornamental and shade tree. It has many uses and benefits, but also some drawbacks and risks. Here are some facts and tips about this fascinating plant.
Appearance and Growth
The bead tree can grow up to 45 m (150 ft) tall, but usually reaches 7â12 m (20â40 ft) in height. It has a rounded crown and a smooth, grey bark. The leaves are compound, with serrated leaflets that are dark green above and lighter green below. The flowers are small, fragrant, and pale purple or lilac, arranged in drooping clusters. The fruit is a yellowish drupe that contains a hard, red seed. The fruit hangs on the tree all winter and becomes wrinkled and white over time.
Uses and Benefits
- The bead tree is a nitrogen-fixing plant that can improve soil fertility and prevent erosion.
- The young leaves can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
- The seeds can be roasted and eaten after removing the toxic coat. They are also used as beads for jewellery and as units of weight for fine measures.
- The wood is durable and resistant to termites. It is used for furniture, firewood, charcoal, and musical instruments.
- The bark, leaves, flowers, and seeds have various medicinal properties. They are used to treat skin diseases, worms, fever, malaria, rheumatism, diabetes, and cancer.
- The flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Drawbacks and Risks
- The bead tree is an invasive species that can outcompete native plants and reduce biodiversity.
- The raw seeds are poisonous to humans and animals. They contain neurotoxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, and death.
- The leaves and flowers can also cause allergic reactions in some people.
- The tree can be damaged by frost, drought, fire, and pests such as caterpillars and borers.
Cultivation and Care
The bead tree is easy to grow and adaptable to various conditions. It prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil. It can tolerate poor soil, salt spray, air pollution, and moderate drought. It can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. It requires little pruning or fertilization. It should be watered regularly during the first year of establishment and during dry periods afterwards. It should be monitored for pests and diseases and removed if it becomes invasive or hazardous.
The bead tree is a versatile and ornamental plant that has many uses and benefits. However, it also has some drawbacks and risks that should be considered before planting or consuming it. It is important to be aware of its characteristics, potential impacts, and proper management.
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