USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 28 March 2018). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Illustration courtesy of University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.
What is Chinese Tallow (Popcorn Tree)?
- Oval- or tear-shaped
- 1.4-3.3 inches long
- 1.4-3.5 inches wide
- Leaf stalk 0.6-3.5 inches long
- 0.38-0.75 inches in diameter
- Grow in small clusters
- Split to release seeds in the winter
- Look like popcorn
- About 0.23-0.39 inches long
- 0.17-0.23 inches wide
- Up to 60 feet tall & 3 feet wide
Where Does it Grow?
It was introduced into South Carolina in 1776 for ornamental purposes and seed oil production. The Chinese tallow tree is often called a “popcorn tree” because of its seeds.
Is it Invasive?
Yes, the Chinese tallow tree is a serious invader that can displace native vegetation as well as alter soil conditions due to the high quantity of acidic tannin in the leaves. Most plant eating animals (mammals, birds, and insects) do not consume the leaves of Chinese tallow trees.
Chinese tallow is non-native to the United States, and tends to disrupt the ecosystem by pushing the native species out of their habitat.
This plant is not native to North America, but has naturalized in much of the United States. While it is not illegal to possess this plant in Texas, it should not be introduced into new water bodies and should be treated with herbicide when present.