Wild Weeds – Chinese Tallow
Wild Weeds – Weed of the Month
Chinese Tallow are an extremely invasive tree in Florida, and are actually regulated on the State Noxious Weed list. This means the plants are illegal to posses, plant, transport, or cultivate. The tree has a vigorous growth and produces a large amount of seeds which are spread by birds. A native to China, it was introduced as an ornamental and to use in the soap making industry. Trees often top 20+ feet in a matter of years, and are often noticeable on roadways and tree lines. The leaves have a unique shape that allow for easy identification. In the fall, Chinese Tallow trees are one of the first to turn color, fading from green to yellow, to a deep red.
Flowers are elongated, appearing in long clusters around 6 inches long. The flowers are a favorite of bees and butterflies which allow them to be pollinated and develop a heavy seed load. Chinese Tallows are often called ‘popcorn trees’ because the 3-seed clusters “pop” open to display a fleshy white inside similar to popcorn. Birds often frequent the tree and consume large amounts of seeds, one of the main reasons this tree is so easily spread and invasive.
Danger to Health & Environment
The leaves and fruit, as well as the inner seed oil, are toxic to humans and cattle. This tree should be removed if identified due to its extremely invasive nature. The tree is difficult to remove because it establishes a large taproot early on, and even after cutting down can re-sprout from the taproot alone. Frequently scan your property for new saplings and emerging plants in order to maintain control of the Chinese Tallow.
Wild Weeds is a monthly spotlight written by Alicia Halbritter, Baker County Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent. Wild Weeds highlights weeds you may find in Florida on the roadside, while hiking, in the forest, or possibly even in your yard. Searching for more information on a particular plant? Email Alicia at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information/questions.