Chinaberry Trees

The battle against Chinaberry trees in my favorite woods began several months ago. I felt a tad guilty cutting big ones which were perfect for climbing, but I had little choice. Chinaberries are exceptionally prolific. They are the rabbits of the tree world. 

I’ve probably cut 50 or more. Many were small enough that my minimal chainsaw skills didn’t matter. Some, however, tested the limits of my ability.

“Cut and run” best describes my technique. Some people can point precisely to where they will lay a tree. My pointing would just be downward, so I rely on escape routes.

There were a couple of incidents that made me nervous. One stubborn Chinaberry sent me scampering for safety. I had no problem getting out of the way, but in my haste the rotating chain caught my pants leg and ripped an L-shaped cut about ten inches long. Carelessness can be brutally rewarded.

That near mishap reminded me of a conversation years ago with a former neighbor, Ronald Everett. Jane and I built a house in 1977 just down the street from the Everett family. Our lot was filled with pine trees which we heartily embraced. A million pine cones later, however, we decided to heavily thin the stand.

Ronald cut trees as a sideline business and took out a hundred or so from our yard. One day when I mentioned his adeptness with a saw, he pulled up his pants leg to reveal a jagged scar from a wound that required 40 stitches.  

Ronald’s scar occasionally comes to mind and helps keep me from biting off more than I can chew. He knew what he was doing, yet still had some accidents which could have ended tragically. One deep cut narrowly missed his spleen.

After my little scare, I revised my safety plan to be especially careful if working alone. Jane’s presence might not prevent an injury, but she could call 911.

The tallest Chinaberries on the property are about 40 years old. I know that because my brother and I cleared a small area for a pond back then. There weren’t any when we finished but now there are plenty.

While trying to get rid of them, I recalled a story that Mike Joiner, a distant relative, shared with me. Mike had some unwanted pines in his yard, so he sought advice from someone with extensive knowledge in such matters.

Mr. Fred Moore spent decades in the woods with his logging crews and had a sawmill operation in Vienna at one point. He knew every aspect of the timber business.

“Mr. Fred,” inquired Mike, “when is the best time to cut pine trees in my yard?” Mr. Fred always chose his words carefully. He paused for a moment and said, “Mike, the best time to cut a pine tree in your yard is when you can hold it down with your foot and chop it with an ax.”

When that first Chinaberry tree appeared decades ago, it would have only taken a minute to chop it down. Left alone, however, it kept growing and producing berries. Then some of those berries became trees and had children of their own.

Besides reproducing in mass, Chinaberry trees are extremely resilient. Cutting them down doesn’t kill them. New branches will sprout from what’s left. To get rid of them the stump has to be killed or dug up.

Barney Fife’s law enforcement approach is the best way to deal with them – “Nip it in the bud.” If we ignore them they’ll keep growing and multiplying, becoming increasingly harder to get rid of.

Sin works in a similar fashion. King David is a good example. He saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and sent for her. He slept with Bathesheba, knowing her husband was away from home, fighting with the king’s troops. After learning she was pregnant, David hid their secret by having Uriah killed. David could have stopped looking and longing, instead one sin led to another.  

Barring something unforeseen, I’ll win the battle against the Chinaberry trees. It may take two or three years, but eventually they’ll all be gone. 

Other seeds, though, will surely sprout. If ignored, they’ll grow until perfect for climbing then beg to be spared. When something takes root in a place it shouldn’t be, it’s best to deal with it promptly. Invasive trees and sin share a common trait. When one finds a spot of fertile ground, it always invites company.    

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6 Responses to Chinaberry Trees

  1. Melanie says:

    We have been trying to kill chinaberry trees for 19 years. When you kill one I think two come back in its place. If you come up with a way to get rid of all of them for good, we will be your first customers.

    Good luck on getting rid of them.

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  2. Judy says:

    Perfect analogy! This brought back memories of my childhood, making things from Chinaberry limbs such as a bow and arrow, stick horses and other things.

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  3. Susan Montgomery says:

    Very well said! 😊

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  4. RACHEL DEVITO says:

    AS ALWAYS I ENJOY YOUR ARTICLES! THIS ONE ON CHINABERRY TREES BROUGHT BACK FOND MEMEORIES OF THE YEARS THAT MY CHILDREN WERE IN 4-H. MY OLDEST SON TOM AND HIS FRIEND JEFF DID A 4-H PROJECT ON WHICH WOOD BURNS THE HOTEST. MY SON TOM IS 60 YEARS OLD SO I DO NOT REMEMBER ALL THE WOOD THAT THEY TESTED BUT I DO REMEMBER THE RESULTS. CHINABERRY TREES BURNED THE HOTTEST. SO MAYBE GOD MADE MANY OF THEM SO THAT WE COULD ALWAYS HAVE WARM HEAT. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOU ARTICLES. MY DAUGHTER REBECCA TYDINGS AND HER HUSBAND STAN AND ONE OF THE GRANDDAUGHTERS AND GREAT GRAND DAUGHTERS STILL LIVE IN VIENNA. BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GEORGIA TOWN. OH YES OUR GRANDDAUGHTER CASSIDY MOSSBARGER, HAS CHANGED HER MAJOR IN COLLEGE AND ENROLLED IN A CREATIVE WRITING MAJOR WITH UGA. SHE LOVES TO WRITE. PRAYERS ARE REQUESTED FOR HER SUCCESS.
    RACHEL DEVITO
    ALLENTOWN, GA

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  5. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    Didn’t know this about Chinaberry trees, but my favorite childhood story was Tallulah Climbs The Chinaberry Tree. Looks like you have your work cut out for you! I agree with Judy about this being the perfect analogy to the invasiveness of sin.

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  6. George says:

    Neil, I enjoyed your article about chinaberry trees. It brings back memories of growing up in Vienna and how I “depended” on those trees for various things. First and foremost, the tree limbs made perfect “horses” and I had a whole bunch lined up and ready to ride at any time. It was amazing how fast I could “ride” around the yard on one of those “horses”. The other great contribution of the trees were of course the chinaberries that provided a lot of ammo for a pee shooter, etc. I must say that the limbs did not, I repeat “did not” make a good bow for an arrow. They did not bend and would break very easily. Of course as you can tell, I enjoyed those trees while I was young and did not have to worry about them later.

    George

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