Print This Page

Chinese Tallow

Sapium sebiferum  SAY-pee-um seb-eh-FARE-um
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)
Deciduous shade tree

HEIGHT: 20 to 30 feet
SPREAD: 20 to 30 feet
FINAL SPACING: Do not plant

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: China and Japan. Adapts and grows well in any soil but prefers moist soils.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Medium-sized trees, to a maximum height of 30 feet with an equal spread, rounded top and often a twisted trunk. Fall color which can be spectacular some years.


FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers appear on Chinese tallow in late spring or early summer. Male and female flowers are together in drooping tassel-like clusters about 2 to 3 inches long with a golden yellow color. Fruit ripens in the fall, hard and round, three lobed, white capsules, containing a single wax-covered seed about 3/8 inch long.

BARK: Gray brown to dark brown and medium textured.

FOLIAGE: Alternate, simple, deciduous, excellent fall color ranging from yellow to oranges and reds to deep purples, can be spectacular.


CULTURE: Relatively easy to grow for a short number of years in most soils. Responds to fertilization and moist soil. PROBLEMS: Freeze damage, borers, cotton root rot, all other insects and diseases and the tree is short lived. Do not plant.

PROPAGATION: Why would you want to?

INSIGHT: Please don’t give me a hard time that I’ve recommended this plant in the past. By the way, one more point - the seeds are poisonous.


  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns