Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: I just moved here and I have this tree in my yard which has clusters of white seed pods. I am also seeing loads of seedlings all underneath the canopy. What is it and should I be concerned?

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Chinese Tallow

Chinese Tallow

A:  This tree is a Chinese tallow tree and it is classified as a Class I invasive plant by the Florida Exotic Plant Pest as well as the Florida Noxious Weed list. It has been a time consuming pest for the City of Fernandina Parks and Recreation as they have worked tirelessly to manage it in Egan’s Creek. In China, Chinese tallow, Triadica sebifera, is cultivated for seed oil. During the 1700’s, Chinese tallow was introduced to the United States primarily for use as an ornamental tree. It was also introduced for making soap from the seed oil. Not only has Chinese tallow become naturalized in the southern coastal plain from South Carolina south to Texas, it has become naturalized in over half of the counties in Florida. Characteristics which make Chinese tallow a popular ornamental are its fast growth rate, attractive fall color, and its ability to resist damage from pests. It is a small to medium-sized tree that grows to about 20 feet tall, but some specimens can reach 40-50 feet. The fruit is a three-lobed capsule (0.5 inches) and seeds are covered with vegetable tallow, a white waxy coating. Fruit ripens from August to November. We would recommend you remove it but now might be the best time as it is loaded with seeds. If you try to remove it now, the seeds are likely to spread. The seeds have a very high germination rate.  This publication will provide more information about proper removal.  http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/399

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