Chinese tallow tree
Sapium sebiferum (L.) Roxb.
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)
Chinese tallow tree is a fast-growing weedy tree with milky sap. It grows to 30 feet tall and often spreads by root sprouts. Its slender limbs and branches droop and are easily broken.
The leaves of Chinese tallow trees are hairless and located alternately along the stem. The leaves have smooth margins and diamond-shaped blades that are shorter than the petioles (leaf stalks). They turn bright yellow, orange or red in the fall.
The flowers have no petals and grow in 2- to 6-inch drooping spikes at the end of each branch. The fruit has three cells, the walls of which fall readily at maturity. The three chalky white seeds may remain attached to the cells through the winter. These nutlike seeds have a hard coat covered by tallow that blackens with weathering.
The forage value of Chinese tallow trees is poor for livestock and fair for wildlife.
Introduced from Asia, Chinese tallow is planted widely as an ornamental. Birds disperse the seeds, and it has escaped in the southeastern part of Texas, where it can be a significant invading woody species.
The toxic agent is unknown. The terminal leaves and green fruit have a strong purgative effect on the bowels of cattle. The consumption of 1 percent of an animal’s weight in green plant material can produce clinical signs within 12 to 14 hours. Losses may occur when cattle are forced to consume significant amounts of the plant in the seedpod stage. Sheep and goats are not affected significantly.
These trees are more significant as a cause of decreased forage production than as a toxic plant.
The signs of poisoning are associated with gastrointestinal disorder and may include:
Diarrhea (sometimes with free blood; Anorexia; Listlessness; Weakness; Dehydration.
Flower Color: Yellow
Seed Type: Fruit/Berry
Stem Texture: Hairless/Smooth
Growth Habit: Shrub (Woody)
Distribution refers to the ecological region in Texas that a plant has been found. You can also view a clickable map.
Book: Brush and Weeds of Texas Rangelands (B-6208), Toxic Plants of Texas (B-6105)
Collection: Brush and Weeds, Toxics
Livestock Affected: Cattle
Livestock Signs: Anorexia, Depression/ Weakness, Diarrhea