Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica), A Novel Specimen Tree for South Florida -
I Alan W. Meerow and Timothy K. Broschat Library
University of Florida, IFAS
Ft. Lauderdale Research & Education Center APR 1.
FLREC Ornamentals Research Report 88-6 AR. 11989
ty of Florida
The neem on nim tree, Azadirachta indica (synonym: Melia indica), is-a-fast-gr~wing,--.
medium-sized to large (40-50 feet), evergreen tree native to India, Malaya, Burma and Sri
Lanka and widely cultivated throughout the Old World tropics. It is well-adapted to
seasonally dry tropical climates and forms an elegant, straight-trunked specimen. The
leaves are pinnately compound, with 9-15 leaflets, shiny green, and hang downward, giving a
weeping appearance to the tree. They tend to be crowded towards the tips of the branches
on older trees. Young leaves are often a rusty-brown color. The flowers are individually
small and inconspicuous, but are sweetly fragrant. They are borne in mass on long,
drooping, axillary clusters. These are followed by yellow fruits, each about 1/2-3/4" in
The neem tree has been widely cultivated for its insecticidal and medicinal
properties. A bag of dried leaves placed in drawers, closets and cupboards will reportedly
repel roaches, moths and other insects. An infusion of the leaves can be used as a contact
insecticide on other plants. An oil derived from the fruit has been used as a treatment for
numerous skin ailments and is incorporated into soaps, lotions and even toothpaste
formulas. The young leaves are also eaten throughout its native range. The wood is high
quality, and has been used as a substitute for mahogany.
Neem tree is easily propagated from cuttings under intermittent mist. Fruit is not
reliably produced in Florida. The trees appear adaptable a wide variety of south Florida soil
conditions and have not shown any nutritional problems. It does not require supplemental
irrigation in south Florida once established. Not surprisingly, the neem tree appears pest-
free in Florida. Salt tolerance is not known. Ultimate cold hardiness is unknown, but a
thirty-foot tall garden specimen was observed by the senior author growing in the low Sierra
Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento, California where freezing temperatures can occur.
Neem tree makes an unusual and elegant specimen tree with a weeping habit. There
appears to be little potential for this species to become weedy, since seed germination is at
least enhanced, if not dependent, on passage of the fruit through the digestive tract of fruit-
eating bats or baboons!