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THE NEEM TREE, a help for everyone

The NEEM tree is a fast growing tree with a proven record in medicinal and insecticidal properties.


THE NEEM TREE (AZADIRACHTA INDICA) FOR REFORESTATION AND AN EFFECTIVE INSECTICIDE. I first encountered the neem tree in Haiti, where hundreds have been planted along highways. I understand that it was chosen in part because it would grow very quickly and encourage the people that reforestation was possible. When I last visited Grace Mountain Mission in Port-au-Prince, there were 15-20 foot neem trees where there had been nothing a year before! Its seeds contain an especially effective natural insecticide.

The tree originated in India or Burma, where it is used widely for its insecticidal and medicinal properties. It is also grown in much of Africa, primarily for firewood. Seeds contain up to 40% oil which can be used for soap or lamp fuel. The residual neem cake is a good fertilizer with some nematicidal properties. (It is the neem oil that is primarily used as an insecticide; water extracts of powdered kernels also can be used in this way.) Neem is fast-growing and drought resistant, excellent for reforestation of semiarid lands. It is an evergreen (except in extreme drought) and valued for its shade--especially in cities--and windbreak protection. It grows best in deep, well-drained sandy areas, but thrives even on acid soils. It may fail in silty or clay soils and in waterlogged sites. To plant, pick fully ripe seeds directly from the tree and plant immediately. The trees may be direct sown or transplanted, and they benefit greatly from tillage, weeding, irrigation, and some fertilization in the first few months of growth (or after transplanting). Neem has been established in many countries throughout the tropics; there is a good chance you may find seed in country if you make inquiries.

Ordering neem seed can be difficult. The seeds may be viable for less than a month. You are strongly encouraged to find local sources of the seed.

The Neem Association,
1511 Oneco Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA. (May be closed.)
Axel Bosselmann, POB 1166, Charters Towers, 4820 Qld., AUSTRALIA (publishes Neem Notes).

CROSS-POLLINATE TO GET NEEM SEED. Norman Siegel in Mexico asked about a neem tree that did not bear seed. They ended up with only one tree from the seed packet we sent. This can easily happen because neem seeds are only viable for perhaps a month. "We have been reproducing it by cuttings but it has not yet seeded." The problem may be that neem must be cross-pollinated with an unrelated neem tree. We planted two neem trees at ECHO, about 200 meters apart. We waited in vain for fruit to set the first two years after they reached blooming age. The next year we had a small tree in a pot that was blooming, so positioned it on a small platform near one side of the larger tree. That year we had fruits in a circumference of a few feet around where that pot had sat. I have never read of this requirement, but in most real-life situations other trees would be nearby.

We planted a second tree beside our one tree. Last year it bloomed, and both trees produced fruit. We grafted this tree onto the more distant tree. The tiny grafts gave a few blossoms and I believe we got some fruit. Our Edible Landscape Nursery is preparing to sell neem trees with an unrelated graft so that home owners who only have room for one tree can get seed. A veneer graft takes well.

By the way, a 26 deg.F freeze had this effect on our seven-foot neem tree: I had water spraying on the tree that night at about 4 feet. It was fine from there down, but after some weeks the leaves above 4 feet dropped. Eventually all parts that were not protected with water spray died. Return to CONTENTS.

NEEM IN AFRICA. Ralph Kusserow in Tanzania wrote, "After reading about the neem tree in EDN I really wanted to try it, but was afraid to order seed because it is viable for such a short time. Then I found that we have it here in Tanzania, though not in our area. In case you have anyone else in a Swahili-speaking area, it might help to know that it is called mwarobaini in Swahili. That means the "forty tree," so called because it supposedly makes medicines to treat 40 diseases. ...My main interest in neem is your report that the leaves can make a tea to deter termites. One of our friends has built a house every year for three years because of termite damage to the grass roof. I am anxious to see if neem leaf juice might be used in this situation.

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