Azadirachta indica: Neem tree

Family: Meliaceae
Common name: Neem tree

Neem is one of the most common trees grown in homes; and are also seen by the sides of the road. The tree can grow to a height of 15-25 meters with wide-spreading, dense branches. Neem trees also produce small white flowers on drooping stalks, about 300 flowers in each cluster. The fruits are small, green and very bitter, like the leaves. These tree is very low maintenance, thriving in very low sunlight, water and fertilization. Neem leaves and flowers are used in cooking in India and part of SE Asia.

Neem oil is used in hair and skin care and also in treatment of skin diseases. Neem oil mixed with a little soap, to encourage the oil to dissolve in water, is a good pesticide, which requires frequent application for good results. Neem cakes obtained from the seeds after extracting the oil, is a good fertilizer promoting soil health. The twigs were used to clean teeth in olden days.

Neem leaves are considered to be auspicious, and people use it to decorate their homes during festivals. Some deities are adorned with garlands made of neem leaves. Certain churches distribute juice of neem leaves on Good Friday to drink, in memory of Jesus drinking wine vinegar before his crucifixion. Ayurveda has always promoted the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties of Neem.

Propagation is from stem cuttings, and also from seeds though this has to be done carefully.

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