31 Chinese Tallow Tree Facts: Identification And Lifespan Revealed

Tanya Parkhi
Mar 17, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Mar 17, 2023
Fact-checked by Anupama Ghosh
You will surely love these Chinese tallow tree facts that highlight all their best characteristics!

The Chinese tallow trees are ornamental, albeit invasive, plants that is native to East Asia.

These trees are known for producing the stillingia tallow, after which they are named. This tallow can be used to produce wax for candles and soaps, as a result of which the US Department of Agriculture promoted the plant as an oil crop in the 1900s.

Despite its beautiful coloring and uses, this tree grows rapidly and is considered an invasive specie in America, as it takes over the local species in that habitat and overcrowds the area.

However, one cannot refute that the waxy tallow these plants produce is extremely useful for various reasons. Read on to learn more about the Chinese tallow tree, how to identify it, and where to find it.

Chinese Tallow Tree Classification and History

Triadica sebifera was first brought to Japan during the Edo period from its native China and Taiwan. Additionally, it can be found in warm habitats like the south of France, Puerto Rico, India, Martinique, Costa Rica, Sudan, and the southeast of the United States.

The state of South Carolina has compiled a comprehensive list of invasive species, which includes the Chinese Tallow Tree.

The tree, which is thought to have been introduced during the American Revolution by Benjamin Franklin, has spread from North Carolina towards the Atlantic and, subsequently, the entirety of the Gulf coast, where it flourishes well.

It thrives particularly well in open spaces and disturbed terrains, such as spoil banks, roadsides, and storm-damaged woods, as well as at the boundaries of the Western Gulf coastal grasslands biome, where it can occasionally establish monocultures.

Other Names for The Chinese Tallow Tree and Its Uses

The Chinese tallow tree is also known by its other names- Chinese tallow, Chinese tallow tree, candleberry tree, chicken tree, gray popcorn tree, or Florida aspen.

The white waxy aril of the seed is used to make soap. The stillingia oil found inside the seed, although poisonous, has several industrial uses.

Since the nectar is non-toxic, beekeepers have turned it into a key source of collection for honey production purposes. Beekeepers travel with their honey bees to prime tallow areas near the sea in the Gulf coast states. During June, they are able to produce a lot of high-quality honey thanks to accessibility to large tallow plant coverage.

These tree species thrive in urban settings and are excellent for filling empty spaces near the sidewalks, where most trees will struggle to flourish. It can provide a home for urban wildlife like lizards and birds and help mitigate the 'heat island' effect of concrete regions.

Lifespan And Characteristics Of Chinese Tallow Trees

There are numerous regions in the world where the tallow tree is not a native plant. The tree is regarded as an invasive species in North America as it disrupts the local ecosystem.

The potential spread of tallow trees poses a threat by out-competing native species and forming a monoculture. The monoculture reduces the area's overall resilience and variety of local species.

The tree's success as an invasive species is largely due to its tenacity, rapid growth, and capacity for reproduction. According to reports, tallow trees can start generating viable seeds as early as three years. The root sprouts and cuttings of the plant can help them populate rapidly in the area and grow into full-size trees.

A single tallow tree can generate around 100,000 viable seeds every year, each of which can germinate several years after being buried in the ground. Around 9921 lb (4,500 kg) of seeds can be produced per hectare each year by a fully developed tree.

Birds and water aid in easily transporting the seeds of the plant from one location to another. Tallow trees can live for, and continue to reproduce for up to 100 years.

They are also very difficult to kill because they have few to no predators due to their poisonous leaves and berries. Moreover, recently cut trees can swiftly regrow due to their speedy generation time.

Currently, the only effective methods for containing and controlling the Chinese tallow are pesticides and managed fire. The flea beetle (Bikasha collaris) is being examined by the USDA as a potential natural pesticide to control Chinese tallow tree populations from getting out of hand.

Identification Of Chinese Tallow Trees And How to Prune Them

The tree is very attractive, swift growing, and provides superb shade. It is particularly notable if planted in regions with wide seasonal temperature variations because the leaves take on different colors in the fall that rival those of maple trees.

It is not picky about drainage or types of soil, although it won't grow in places with extreme shade. It is reasonably resilient and has become naturalized throughout all of Japan. It is recognized for its plentiful and, rightfully so, breathtaking fall foliage.

The Chinese tallow tree has simple, deciduous leaves, which are broad rhombic, to oval in shape. They are smooth on the margins, heart-shaped, and occasionally have an extended tail.

The undersides of the leaves are significantly paler and have a brighter green color. In the autumn, they turn into vivid yellows, oranges, purples, and reds, greatly increasing the beauty of the landscape. The tree produces male and female flowers on the same plant, which is monoecious in nature and attracts bees and other insects.

The vivid coloring of the waxy green leaves highlights the beautiful greenish-yellow and white flowers in springtime when they are in full bloom. These blossoms have a light green tint and can grow as big as 7.9 in (20 cm) big.

The solitary, pistillate (female) flowers interestingly have no petals and have three styles and a three-lobed ovary instead. They are situated on the bases of the short branches, with the male flowers naturally occurring along the ends.

For trees in North America, the blossoms usually reach their full maturity in April to June, with the fruits ripening shortly from September to October. The fruits are capsule-shaped with three valves and lobes each.

They start out green and turn brown-black as the plant grows bigger. On the capsule walls separating, they release small, round seeds that are covered with white tallow. Typically, seeds remain on the plants for several weeks before dispersing.

Chinese tallow trees are best pruned during spring before any new branches or leaves begin to grow. With short-handled pruning scissors, it is very important to remove suckers and shoots from the bottom portion of the trunk.

If these are not managed, the tree will not grow properly and end up resembling a shrub more than a tree due to numerous branches growing from the trunk.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You





See All

Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

Read full bio >
Fact-checked by Anupama Ghosh

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Archaeology and Ancient History, Master of Arts specializing in Archaeology and Ancient History

Anupama Ghosh picture

Anupama GhoshBachelor of Arts specializing in Archaeology and Ancient History, Master of Arts specializing in Archaeology and Ancient History

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Archaeology and Ancient History and a Master's degree in the same field from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Anupama is a content coordinator with a diverse professional background in sales, academic research, content writing, advertising, and market research. She has strong communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills that she has honed through her various roles. She worked as a research associate, customer care executive, and data intel associate before joining Kidadl. In her free time, Anupama enjoys reading books, watching Marvel movies, and listening to Jagjit Singh's songs.

Read full bio >