In 1778 Jefferson first planted "Pride of China" seeds in his nursery at Monticello. By 1798 a number of trees were located in an arboretum known as the upper grove on the southwest slope of the mountain. This Asian species was introduced into America in the late 18th century by Thomas Lamboll. It became an enormously popular tree and was grown by Jean Skipwith and George Washington. The Chinaberry also was known as "Bead Tree" because the hardened seeds can be strung into necklaces, and monks once made them into rosaries. Jefferson's granddaughters made necklaces with the dried seed, and the grandsons used them as ammunition for their slingshots.
This deciduous, spring to early summer flowering tree develops small, star-shaped, fragrant lilac flowers formed in clusters, which are followed by spherical yellow fruit that persist through the winter and are very showy. Fast-growing, it has a graceful arching habit that reaches 30 to 50 feet high and 15 to 25 feet wide.