Triadica sebifera

chinese tallow, tallowtree


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Margin

entire, denticulate

Leaf Type


Leaf Shape

ovate, rhombic

Growth Form


Flower Color

green, yellow

Flower Month

May - June

Height (meters)

2.1 - 10.5

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Leaf Retention


Wetland Class


Wetland Coefficient of Conservatism


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Leaves as long as wide.

Cultural Information

Seeds germinate in warm soil 70-85 F. Germination is quite irregular and unpredictable although there is some evidence that germination improves when the waxy coating is removed. Seeds average approximately 3,700 seeds/lb.

Animal Use

Few animals use any part of this tree. Some birds eat the seeds but little is now known. Grackels are reported to gleen the wax from the seed.

Natural History

Public enemy #1 in coastal prairie. An Asian native that has escaped from cultivation and become a rampant pernicious weed. It is a serious enough pest to have been included in The Nature Conservancy's list of The Dirty Dozen: America's Least Wanted. . It was introduced to the USA in Charleston, South Carolina in the late 1700's. It has since spread from South Carolina to Texas, north to Arkansas and as far south as Tampa, Florida. It has endangered native vegetation in sensitive habitats such as Coastal Prairie. In 1999 it was reported to have invaded the American River Parkway in Sacramento, California. The specific name "sebiferum," meaning wax-bearing, refers to its 1500 year history of being used as a seed-oil crop in Asia. This Chinese tree, imported to make tallow for candles and spread for its ornamental value, rapidly colonizes wet or disturbed prairie sites. If not controlled with fire, herbicides, or mowing it will convert prairie to monocultures of trees with very little under story. The Acadians of south Louisiana called Sapium "olivier" which is French for olive, resulting from the resemblance of the immature fruit to olives. It is also sometimes referred to as "arbre a poule," a name used for any tree in which chickens roost, and "arbre a tactac" or popcorn tree (Holmes 1990). The seeds persisit on the tree through fall. When tender seed bearing tips are killed by frost the seeds may persist all winter into spring. Control: Control with fire is effective when fuel is ample, and trees are small enough and at a density that fire can top-kill the trees. For this reason vigilance and persistence is are key to tallow management. As with all invasive exotics, early detection and control of new infestations is necessary. Control by flooding is normally not effective as S. sebiferum is tolerant of brackish water and being inundated by fresh water. It is an increaser under cattle grazing and is considered toxic to cattle, but sheep and goats are reported to eat it. Mechanical methods are another tool in the control of S. sebiferum. Although plants resprout rapidly after mowing it can prevent trees from growing large enough to suppress fuel. Despite the fact that removal by bull dozing is expensive it is necessary where tree size and density prevent fire and herbicides cannot be used. With mechanical removal root pieces left in the ground often resprout, and herbaceous regrowth usually makes poor fuel. It has been reported that trees can be killed when standing in water, by cutting below the water level. Triclopyr (Garlon 4) has been effective as a cut-stump treatment, or as a basal bark paint. Eleven % triclopyr in oil controls trees up to 15 cm dbh, while taller trees require a 20% solution. The best time for application is generally during the summer or fall, although spring application is often recommended to prevent seed set. Glyphosate (Rodeo) has been successfully used to paint cut stumps. There are currently no biological controls.


Near towns, vacant lots, disturbed areas, along rivers, thickets, and woods. Extremely invasive.