Chinaberry tree, not kidding

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

My stepfather is from upstate NY, and when he moved down here 35 years ago, he fell in love with the lowly regarded Chinaberry tree. He has a nice tree growing in his backyard that really is pretty. Part of my property is a flood plain, where I'm growing young live oaks, magnolias, crepe myrtles, and lots of zone 8a palms (among other things). I would love a quick growing short lived tree (oh yeah, I'm going there!) to fill in and provide shade for 10-15 yrs, or until the live oaks' canopies become big enough to create shade. I want a few nonfruiting Chinaberry trees. His tree doesn't produce the smelly seed/fruit that I've always associated with Chinaberries, and it's 15 yrs old. Does this mean he has a male tree? I always thought all Chinaberry trees produce fruit. I remember some folks called them "umbrella trees", but I always thought it was just another common name for the Chinaberry tree. I just don't want to plant something that's going to grow up and produce those awful fruits.

Thumbnail by donnacreation
Conway, SC

My Grandfather had a farm in the Sampit section of Georgetown Cty. A haven for mosquitoes, knats , and flies. All the workers rested, cooled off, and ate lunch under the Chinaberry trees not because of the wonderful shade but they also repelled insects---So Granddad said. Always wondered if there was any truth to this. Anyone know ??
Also, my Aunt made beautiful necklaces from the China berries. When they dry, you have perfect holes in each end to string with needle and thread. They dry cream colored but can be easily dyed any color. You can find them at craft shows around Charleston.

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

I knew about the berries being used for making jewelry, but I didn't know the tree repelled insects. My father still puts up Martin bird gourds, but he would need 100's to put a noticeable dent in the local mosquito population. Have a feeling this rural tradition is going to bite the dust soon.

I can't find anything on the internet about a Chinaberry/umbrella tree that doesn't produce fruit. I might try rooting some cuttings from his tree.-)

Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

I had one in my yard when I lived in North Florida .. what I remember was that it was always infested with whiteflies, sooty mold and dropped branches like crazy.

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

Did your tree produce those smelly fruit/seeds, MmeX? They are brittle trees, and I understand why most gardeners don't like them. I didn't know they attracted white flies. I have a large deciduous Oak tree in my front yard that drops branches every time it's windy, and they tend to fall on shrubs, often damaging them. Still don't understand why folks plant deciduous oaks instead of live oaks. I would like to have the tree removed, but it's huge and I can't afford a tree surgeon.

I was having white fly problems with my hedge of variegated chinese privet, but since I limbed them up, the white fly problem isn't nearly as bad. They're over 12' tall and make an attractive, quick growing privacy screen. I planted a shade loving cultivar of lorapetalum betweem them, and the creamy white privet contrasts nicely with the dark purple lorapetalum shrubs.

Still curious if anyone is familiar with the Chinaberry/umbrella tree that doesn't produce fruit.

Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

I honestly don't recall if it produced fruit or not but I kinda remember a stink.

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

Well, shut my mouth. Just found out today from my stepfather that his Chinaberry tree does indeed tree produce fruit. My mother had told me years ago it was non fruit bearing, and I had forgotten that gardening is way down on her list of interests.) Still interesting to learn that the tree repels mosquitoes and I remember that stink, too, MmeX. I think just about everybody who grew up in SC back in the day remembers a close encounter with rotted chinaberry fruit on the ground, and sidewalks, and everywhere. Thanks ladies!

So that's why I could find nothing pertinent on the internet about the oxymoronic entry 'nonfruit bearing chinaberry tree. he he he...

Ofcourse I won't be planting this invasive tree.

This message was edited Aug 7, 2012 6:36 PM

(Zone 9a)

Although they might be slower growing in Sumter than they are around here, Live Oaks really jump once they get past that sapling stage. I have some 10 year old trees that are as large as that chinaberry you showed. I have been told they grow like crazy for the first 50 years and they slow down for the next 400. Give your oaks a bit of TLC and you won't miss the non existant, non fruiting chinaberry. :-)

Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

... then there is always the dreaded Silver Maple ..

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

You're right, ardesia, Live Oaks do grow quickly, even here in zone 8a. My oldest 2 were in the backseat of my car 6 yrs ago, and today they're already over 12' tall w/sm canopies. I've never watered them, and they've endured some pretty bad summer droughts. They're very far from a water source, but next year I aspire to have the motivation/endurance to water them during those awful summer droughts that seem to love to linger in my neck of the woods.

My father lost all of his Pines (and they were massive) to Hugo back in '89. He replaced them with Live Oaks and today they're already beautiful, stately trees about 24x24'. He's old school and those oaks have never received supplemental water. Imagine how much bigger they'd be had he watered them in their youth!-)

When I lived in NJ, I mowed over 100's - 1000's? of young Maple seedlings, MmeX. The township had planted Silver Maples along my street long ago, and they were hated by my neighbors. I loved sitting out on my back patio on a rare perfect summer day and watching the wind gusts reveal that striking silver underleaf. Beautiful, but so darned invasive!

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

when i was young i loved to read novels that were set in the south. it never failed that there would be a Chinaberry mentioned somewhere...usually the only shade in a poor, dusty yard. i was so enamored with this picturesque setting that i vowed one day to have one....even though i didn't even know what one looked like.

we moved from the keys about eight years ago, in late autumn, to central florida and the large tree on the adjoining property was bare. imagine my surprise when it leafed out in spring and was later followed by purple flowers (and then the messy fruit). i don't recall any smell at all. i had to research to see what it was and there it was, a Chinaberry. we have since moved from that home to another in the neighborhood but before we did, i dug up a 3' sapling that was buried in a brush pile on that property.

you guessed it. it's now on my property and about 20' tall. i know they're everywhere and they're invasive. i don't care. i have my Chinaberry at long last.

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

Good for you! I live in a rural, agricultural area where they grow on ditch banks. If those fields weren't farmed they would quickly become covered with Chinaberry trees. I've never seen any growing in the mix in local woodlands - probably too much shade for them.

(Zone 9a)

Chinaberries must not like salt, I do not see them out here on the islands; we are plaged with the terribly invasive Chinese Tallow or Popcorn tree, Sapium sebiferum. They are edging out native species at an alarming rate. We advise everyone to remove them asap.

Incidentally,the pictures of the flowers on this tree on Google images are not even close to what we have here except for the "popcorn". It must be a very pretty tree someplace else. The flowers on ours are barely noticable.

Sumter, SC(Zone 8a)

Those barrier islands are SC's crown jewels. I certainly hope the Sapium sebiferum tree can be contained and eradicated.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

name changed to Triadica:

we had a mess of these along the lake when we moved here...then the rains came and filled in the low spots and the lake rose enough to kill them. they were, thankfully, all young trees. i wouldn't be surprised if they came back at some point though. what a shame that such a beautiful looking tree is such a monster!

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