Chinaberry

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.

Lovely chinaberry tree in Fitzroy

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.

chinaberry blossoms
last year's berries still on the tree

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?

31 responses to “Chinaberry

  1. Those are chinaberry trees? We have heaps of those at my old school and I didn’t even realise! We used to throw the berries at each other 😛

  2. Hello Carole!Are thoses really from last year and are you going to make another book to the Dragon keeper seires?
    Thanks,Britey
    p.s,my sister read the seires and loved it. So when I got older my sister made me read it now i love it. Thanks again(for a fantastic series!!)

  3. Britney,
    Yes, the berries in the photo are left over from last year. Still clinging on.
    I have an idea for a new Dragonkeeper book. I’ll have to see if my publisher likes my idea and wants to publish the book.
    Glad to hear that you and your sister like the books.

  4. Nikki,
    I am serious, and I did say I wasn’t going to, but after a long break from Dragonkeeper I think I have another story to tell. It’s early days yet. At the moment all I have is a synopsis.

  5. Wow, that is pretty cool that the trees are also native to Australia! I’ll keep an eye out for them! I don’t think I’ve seen those berries before, but I can’t make out that much from the picture, haha.

  6. Omigosh that is so cool:> I <3 Dragonkeeper and I 'am currently looking for the second book.P.S,will you tell us about your synopsis for the new book?

  7. Nadia,
    glad you liked Dragonkeeper. You should be able to find Garden of the Purple Dragon at the library.
    No, I’m afraid it’s way to early for me to talk about my ideas for a new book. I haven’t even talked to my publisher about it yet. And I have this superstition that if I talk about it too soon it won’t turn out right. Sorry.

  8. Hi Carole!I love love love your books!!you are one of my FAVE authors ever!!:)You said you have a synopsis of a new Dragonkeeper book?Good luck:>Though,I don’t understand why you have to write a new book.The triology is already perfect and the ending is so marve.Adding a new book may just bring it down altogether and we wouldn’t want that happening,would we;)

  9. Hi Carole, just wanted to let you know how much my five year old and I loved the dragonkeeper series. I started reading them to him when he was four and we were both captured (particularly me to my surprise – there were many times we he had long fallen asleep but I just couldn’t stop reading). Thank you! Regards Kath and Jasper

  10. Charlotte,
    THanks. Glad you enjoyed the books. The new book will not carry on after the trilogy. That story is definitely finished. If I do write another book it will not be about Ping, but about Kai later in his life. It’s only an idea at the moment.

  11. Hi Carole,

    I just finished the drangon keeper series and iwas the best series i read in my life!

  12. WOW!!! So the dragons cant eat the fruit or toutch the tree? and I absolutely love the Drogonkeeper series I’ve read each book like 10 times and they are the best!!!!! XD

  13. Chelsea,
    I missed your comment. Sorry.
    If you have read Dragonkeeper, you will know what happens when dragons eat chinaberry leaves.
    Glad to hear that you like the books so much. 10 times, that’s a lot!!! I’m impressed.

  14. Hey carole,
    I year 5 and my class recently started to read dragonkeeper. It’s really inspiring and I love every bit of it. I would also like to ask why they chose pickleing the dragon, instead of any other method.

  15. hi carole.w
    Our class is reading dragon keeper it is sooo cool plus I am in year 5. How do you come up with those ideas from Isabella!

  16. hi carole my class is reading your book DRAGON KEEPER i am in year 5 and my name is bella and i really am ejoying your book.how do you know how to write all these book they are so interesting. 🙂

  17. bella,
    Glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Writing books is my job. It takes a long time, about a year for each book.

  18. Is that a chinaberry tree? Woah! We have one of them at my beachouse!!! I didn’t know that until now!

    Thankyou Carole

  19. Here’s another thing about Chinaberry trees: they are incredibly hardy, and invasive. We have one growing out of the stone wall of our house, with roots under a cement walkway. Every once in a while it breaks through the plaster. We use powerful weedkiller every time we see new shoots, but we haven’t been able to kill it, for several years now. If left alone it grows at an incredible rate, at least an inch a day. A very tenacious plant.

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