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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.

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