Common name: Chinese Tallowood, Chinese Tallow, Chinese Tallowtree
Triadica sebifera (L.) Small APNI*
Synonyms: Croton sebifer L. APNI*
Triadica sebiferum orth. var. APNI*
Sapium sebiferum (L.) Roxb. APNI*
Description: Deciduous tree to 15 m high, plants male or monoecious. Bark grey to brownish, longitudinally fissured.
Leaves alternate; petiole 20–40 (–60) mm long, with 2 small glands at apex; lamina broadly ovate to rhombic, mostly 30–80 mm long and 30–75 mm wide, dark green above, paler below, becoming yellows, oranges, purples and reds in autumn (before falling); margin entire; apex acuminate.
Flowers in small clusters arranged in terminal spikes 8–14 cm long. Male flowers yellow-green; pedicels up to 2 mm long; perianth segments 3, c. 0.5 mm long; stamens 2 or 3, up to 1 mm long. Female flowers (when present) at base of inflorescence; perianth segments c. 2 mm long; style c. 6 mm long, 3-lobed in upper half.
Capsules 3-locular, green when young, maturing to black, valves falling leaving naked seeds attached. Seeds whitish, c. 5 x 7 mm, up to 3 per capsule.
Flowering: November to February; fruits March to May.
Distribution and occurrence: commonly cultivated, particularly as a street tree. Occasionally naturalised; recorded from near Casino, Grafton and western Sydney. Native to eastern Asia.
Potential invasive environmental weed of water courses, wetlands, roadsides and native vegetation areas. A weed profile is provided at http://weeds.dpi.nsw.gov.au/Weeds/Details/38
NSW subdivisions: *NC, *CC, *NWS
Other Australian states: *Qld
Cultivated as an ornamental tree, and the white, waxy, tallow-containing coating (aril) on the seeds is used in soap and candle making. Some parts toxic.
Text by D.M. Crayn; edited May 2017, P.G. Kodela
Taxon concept: J.K. Small, Florida Trees: 59 (1913); accepted name in Australian Plant Census (accessed May 2017)
APNI* Provides a link to the Australian Plant Name Index (hosted by the Australian National Botanic Gardens) for comprehensive bibliographic data
***The AVH map option provides a detailed interactive Australia wide distribution map drawn from collections held by all major Australian herbaria participating in the Australian Virtual Herbarium project.