Toona sinensis

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Toona sinensis
Foliage and seed capsules
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Meliaceae
Genus: Toona
T. sinensis
Binomial name
Toona sinensis
  • Ailanthus flavescensCarrière
  • Ailanthus mairei Gagnep.
  • Cedrela longiflora var. kumaona C. DC.
  • Cedrela serrata var. puberula C. DC.
  • Cedrela sinensis Juss.
  • Cedrela sinensis var. lanceolata H.L. Li
  • Cedrela sinensis var. schensiana C. DC.
  • Mioptrila odorata Raf.
  • Surenus glabra (C. DC.) Kuntze
  • Surenus serrata (Royle) Kuntze
  • Surenus serrulata (Miq.) Kuntze
  • Surenus sinensis (Juss.) Kuntze
  • Toona glabra (C. DC.) Harms
  • Toona microcarpa var. denticulata A. Chev.
  • Toona microcarpa var. grandifolia A. Chev.
  • Toona serrata (Royle) M. Roem.
  • Toona serrulata (Miq.) Harms
  • Toona sinensis var. hupehana (C. DC.) A. Chev.
  • Toona sinensis var. incarvillei A. Chev.
  • Toona sinensis var. schensiana (C. DC.) H. Li ex X.M. Chen [1]
Toona sinensis - MHNT Toona sinensis MHNT.BOT.2010.12.11.jpg
Toona sinensis - MHNT

Toona sinensis, commonly called Chinese mahogany, [2] Chinese cedar, Chinese toon, beef and onion plant, [3] or red toon (Chinese :香椿; pinyin :xiāngchūn; Hindi : डारलू, romanized: d̩āralū; Malay : suren; Vietnamese : hương xuân) is a species of Toona native to eastern and southeastern Asia, from North Korea south through most of eastern, central and southwestern China to Nepal, northeastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and western Indonesia. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


Leaf (unusual specimen with terminal leaflet) Toona sinensis.jpg
Leaf (unusual specimen with terminal leaflet)

It is a deciduous tree growing to 25 metres (82 ft) tall with a trunk up to 70 cm diameter. The bark is brown, smooth on young trees, becoming scaly to shaggy on old trees. The leaves are pinnate, 50–70 cm long and 30–40 cm broad, with 10–40 leaflets, the terminal leaflet usually absent (paripinnate) but sometimes present (imparipennate); the individual leaflets 9–15 cm long and 2.5–4 cm broad, with an entire or weakly serrated margin. The flowers are produced in summer in panicles 30–50 cm long at the end of a branch; each flower is small, 4–5 mm diameter, with five white or pale pink petals. The fruit is a capsule 2–3.5 cm long, containing several winged seeds. [4] [7] [8] [9]

Cultivation and uses

The young leaves of T. sinensis(xiāngchūn) are extensively used as a vegetable in China; they have a floral, yet onion-like flavor, attributed to volatile organosulfur compounds. [10] Plants with red young leaves are considered of better flavour than those where the young leaves are green. [4] [11] [12]

In China and Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, the young leaves of Toona sinensis or commonly known as Chinese Mahogany is used to make Toona paste, which is used as a condiment to serve with plain rice porridge as breakfast and simple meals, or to enhance the flavour of a dish or soup. Common dishes made with Toona paste are Chinese Mahogany fried rice, Chinese Mahogany beancurd, and Chinese Mahogany mushroom soup.

The timber is hard and reddish; it is valuable, used for furniture making [4] [9] and for bodies of electric guitars. Being a "true mahogany" (mahogany other than Swietenia), it is one of the common replacements for Swietenia mahogany ("genuine mahogany") which is now commercially restricted from being sourced natively. [13]

Outside its native region T. sinensis is valued more as a large ornamental tree for its haggard aspect. [8] [14] It is by far the most cold-tolerant species in the Meliaceae and the only member of the family that can be cultivated successfully in northern Europe.


In Chinese literature, Toona sinensis is often used for a rather extreme metaphor, with a mature tree representing a father. This manifests itself occasionally when expressing best wishes to a friend's father and mother in a letter, where one can write "wishing your Toona sinensis and daylily are strong and happy" (simplified Chinese :椿萱并茂; traditional Chinese :椿萱並茂; pinyin :chūnxuānbìngmào), with Toona sinensis metaphorically referring to the father and daylily to the mother.

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  1. "Toona sinensis (Juss.) M.Roem. — The Plant List".
  2. Yousheng, C.; Sziklai, O. (1985), "Preliminary study on the germination of Toona sinensis (A. Juss.) roem. seed from eleven Chinese provenances", Forest Ecology and Management, 10 (3): 269–281, doi:10.1016/0378-1127(85)90119-7 CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. "Beef and Onion Plant Seeds | Suttons".
  4. 1 2 3 4 Hua Peng, David J. Mabberley, Caroline M. Pannell, Jennifer M. Edmonds & Bruce Bartholomew. "Toona sinensis". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 25 May 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. "Toona sinensis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  6. University of Melbourne: Sorting Toona names
  7. 1 2 Hong Kong trees: Toona sinensis (in Chinese, with photos; google translation)
  8. 1 2 3 Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN   0-00-220013-9.
  9. 1 2 Taiwan Forestry: Toona sinensis (in Chinese, with photos; google translation)
  10. Li J.-X., Eidman K., Gan X.-W., Haefliger O. P., J. Carroll P. J., Pika J. "Identification of (S,S)‑γ-glutamyl‑(cis-S‑1-propenyl)thioglycine, a naturally occurring norcysteine derivative, from the Chinese vegetable Toona sinensis." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 61 (7470−7476).
  11. Plants for a Future: Toona sinensis
  12. Oriental Vegetable Seeds: Toona sinensis
  13. "Press Release UNEP/181_Cites Trade Controls to Take Effect for Mahogany".
  14. More, D. & White, J. (2003). Cassell's Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 709