Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We need this tree!

White Cedar / Cape Lilac (Melia azedarach)

As we enjoin the climate change battle, this tree is too good not to have in our arsenal.

It's beautiful, grows in anything from wet clay to dry sand and doesn't break roads and footpaths.

It's even a potentially valuable food source for our endangered Carnaby's Black Cockatoo.

It's the White Cedar - or "Cape Lilac" as it's called here in Western Australia.

The problem with the tree - and the main reason it has fallen from favour here - is the White Cedar Moth caterpillar. Left untreated, this little critter can do significant damage (it only feeds on Cape Lilac leaves - go figure!) and drive adjacent residents nuts with it's home-invading ways.

I think it's a problem we have to try and solve however as this tree is too good not to be using*.

This specimen in Gugeri St, Claremont is in non-irrigated sand yet looks healthy green, summer after scorching summer, with absolutely no attention.


Pretty wonderful in fact.

* The current "hessian-tree-collar-laced-with-chemical" method of controlling this caterpillar is unsightly and too labour intensive to be practical on a large scale. I thought I'd ask around a few research sites and see if there's any possibility of developing a biological control for it. If you know of any work being done in this area please let me know!


  1. Band the tree with wide plastic tape over 10 cm. Band the tree with two parallel small diameter (3 mm) ropes at a distance of 3/4 cm in the middle of the plastic tape. The rope must be fairly tight.
    Fill the space between the ropes with high temperature grease. (available at Bunnings)
    The caterpillars are unable to cross the grease.
    Only a few might go below the plastic.(you can put derring dust or insecticide in the crevices behind the tape.)
    You will catch them in the morning or evening above or below this obstacle: kill them with a knife or insecticide spray.
    Visit your tree morning and evening and destroy the caterpillars: you will get on top of the population. Eggs might be up in the tree in the vicinity of the tree.