An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 91 White Cedar
  2. 073_white_cedar_melia_azedarach_-_credit_to_tony_rodd__fruit_2 Dried fruit by Tony Rodd
  3. 256_white_cedar_melia_azedarach_-_leaves_and_young_seeds_at_rbg_melbourne_-_credit_to_rachel_maitland Leaves and young fruit by Rachael Maitland

White Cedar or Cape Lilac

Melia azedarach


  • Deciduous tree.
  • Size: usually 10 – 15 m high but can reach 45 m high in its natural environment. Its canopy is 6 – 8 m wide.
  • Leaves: bright glossy green and oval in shape, 2 – 7 cm long and 1 – 3 cm wide. They are arranged either side of a 12 – 45 cm long stem and turn yellow in late autumn before falling from the tree in winter.
  • Flowers: pale purple to white, star-shaped, forming clusters that are 10 – 20 cm long. Each individual flower is about 2 cm in diameter and consists of 5 petals. The flowers have a chocolate scent!
  • Fruit/seed: round, yellow berries (1 – 2 cm in diameter) grow in clusters. 

What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower
  • Full flowering (record all days)
  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)
  • First fully open leaf
  • Leaves open (record all days)
  • First leaf to change colour
  • Leaves changing colour (record all days)
  • First leaf to drop this year
  • 50% or more of leaves dropped (record all days)
  • No leaves (record all days)
  • Fruit fully ripened / berry reached full size (record all days)

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • Most of the year!
  • Leaves appear in late spring 
  • Flowers appear in spring and may last into summer
  • Fruits appear after flowering (usually in autumn)
  • Leaves change colour in autumn before falling in winter 

Where To Look

  • Within Australia, it occurs from north Queensland to southern New South Wales, usually within 100 km of the coast. It also occurs in the Kimberley region in northern Western Australia, and in the tropical areas of the Northern Territory. However, it is extending its distribution beyond these regions as it is widely planted in urban areas and birds readily disperse its seeds.
  • In dry, coastal and subtropical rainforests, along stream banks and in valleys. It is also common in urban areas, particularly in parks, public gardens and along steam banks and streets.

White Cedar or Cape Lily distribution map - ANBG

White Cedar or Cape Lily distribution map - ANBG

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability


Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.



Australian Biological Resources Study 1985. Flora of Australia Volume 26. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study

Holliday I 1989. A field guide to Australian trees. Hamlyn, Port Melbourne.


  1. Search Species

  1. Did You Know?

    The White Cedar is one of only a few native Australian plants that are seasonally deciduous (winter), although many species drop their leaves during droughts, particularly those in the north.

    It reaches maturity when it is 6 – 10 years old and lives for about 20 years