Those of you who have read any of my Dragonkeeper books will know that the leaves, fruit and bark of the chinaberry tree are one of the few things that Chinese dragons don’t like. It poisons them. This information was recorded in an ancient Chinese book called the Er Ya Yi, written about 1000 years ago, but quoting dragon expert and philosopher Wang Fu who lived in the Han Dynasty around 2000 years ago.
When I was writing the books I wanted to know what a chinaberry tree looked like, so I Googled it. It’s proper name is Melia azedarach. It is a deciduous tree which is native to China, India and (I was suprised to discover)…Australia. A little more research and I found that it is a common street tree and in fact there were chinaberry trees in the streets of the inner Melbourne suburb where I live.
They have mauve flowers and are particularly lovely and fragrant right now after all the rain we’ve had. The berries are yellow and about the size of a cherry. In the winter the trees lose their leaves, but the berries stay on. As well as being poisonous to dragons they are toxic to humans as well, and could be lethal if a lot were eaten. Birds, however, eat them without any effects.
It seems strange to me that this Chinese tree should also be native to Queensland. Did birds bring the seeds here? Did the seeds float across the ocean?
Or could if be that those theories about the Chinese sailing around the world in 15th century are true, and Chinese people brought the seeds to Australia long before European settlement?