Chinese tallow tree
Triadica sebifera (L.) Small
  • ALTERNATE COMMON NAMES: chicken tree, popcorn tree
  • LEAVES: alternate, simple, deciduous, blades rhombic-ovate-deltoid, tips acuminate, blades 1-3.5” long by 1-3” wide, typically blades are about as broad as long; red fall color
  • FLOWER: unisexual, plants monoecious; inflorescence a spike with female flowers in lower portion and male in upper, individual flowers small, yellowish
  • FRUIT: three-lobed capsule; seeds large and waxy
  • TWIGS: exudes milky sap when twig is snapped or leaf removed; sap reportedly toxic
  • BARK: on older trees brownish gray with shallow furrows
  • FORM: small deciduous tree, usually fast-growing
  • HABITAT: ruderal forests, old fields, fence rows, levees, mesic to hydric forests, wet prairies, edges of fresh to intermediate marsh
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative (FAC): Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: invasive exotic! naturalized in southeastern U.S., native of China [Global Range Map]  [US County Range Map]
  • USES: ornamental (still used!), wax from seed was used to make candles and soap
  • WILDLIFE: considered undesirable whitetail deer browse but heavily used when little else is available
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. prolifically weedy small tree
    2. rhombic-deltoid leaves with acuminate apex, blades about as wide as long
    3. milky sap exuded when a leaf is removed or a twig cut
    4. three-lobed, three-seeded capsular fruit