Chinese Tallow

Triadica sebifera

Other Common Names

Popcorn Tree

Plant Category


Invasive Description

Native to China and Japan, Chinese Tallow is a deciduous tree that grows to 60 feet tall and can produce a trunk 3 feet in diameter. Its leaves are spade shaped. In spring dangling, yellowish flower spikes yield small clusters of three-lobed fruit in fall and winter that split to reveal popcorn-like seeds. Its leaves reliably turn red in fall, one reason the tree is widely planted. “Tallow Tree” refers to the wax produced by the seeds which has been used for soap making and candles.

Ecological Threat

Introduced to the United States in the early 1700s, the Chinese Tallow is a prolific seed producer from early in life and outcompetes native trees. The tree severely impacts riparian and wetlands by changing water chemistry. It increases the rate dissolved nutrients, such as phosphates, enrich the water which results in the water’s dissolved oxygen being depleted and causing death of aquatic life. Leaves, fruits and sap are toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and horses. The tree crowds out native plants and forms a monoculture.

Chinese Tallow tree is on the Texas Dept. of Agriculture’s list of Invasive Plants which are illegal to sell, distribute or import into Texas.

How to Eradicate

For information on how to eradicate this invasive, view our statement on herbicide use and preferred alternatives for invasive plants.

Native Alternatives

You can replace this invasive plant with native alternatives. Here are some plants that make superior replacements.

Match your location on the Texas map to the color squares on the replacement plants below to find suitable replacements for your ecoregion.

Click for more details about the ecoregions