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Sapium sebiferum

Pronunciation: Say-pee-um seb-ee-fer-uh
Family: Euphorbiaceae (spurge family)
Synonym: Triadica sebifera
Common Name: Chinese tallow, popcorn tree
Plant Type:
  • trees, shrubs
Height to: 40'
Width to: 20'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
  • 40 to 30ºF ZONE 10
  • 50 to 40ºF ZONE 11
Sun Exposure:
  • part sun
  • full sun
Bloom Season:
  • mid spring
Bloom Description: The springtime flowers of the popcorn tree (sapium sebiferum), are in yellowish green catkins on the branch tips. The fruits are 3-lobed brown capsules that open to reveal three white, waxy seeds that resemble popcorn. Like most members of the spurge family, broken twigs and leaf stems exude a milky latex sap.
Soil Type: The popcorn tree (sapium sebiferum) tolerates almost any soil and can grow 5 ft (1. 5 m) tall in its first year.
Plant Perks:
  • Fall Foliage
Propagation: Chinese tallow (sapium sebiferum) seeds are spread by birds, and virtually all of them germinate somewhere. It also produces new shoots from the roots.
Native to: The popcorn tree (sapium sebiferum) is native to china and japan where it has been cultivated for its useful seeds and as an ornamental for more than a thousand years. It is said that benjamin franklin introduced chinese tallow into the united states in 1776. Since then it has escaped from cultivation and is now an extremely invasive weed in much of the lower southeast and is currently expanding its range west and north through texas and north carolina. It is also considered a weed in australia. It was planted as a street tree in california where it apparently has not yet become invasive, perhaps because of insufficient rainfall.
Notes for Identification: Chinese tallow (sapium sebiferum) seed capsules yield a wax (chinese vegetable tallow) that is used to make soap and candles. An oil is extracted that is used as a lamp fuel and machine lubricant. In parts of the american southeast, decorative wreaths are made by stringing the popcorn-like seeds. Honeybees make a desirable light-colored honey from the flowers.  warning the usda reports that: "chinese tallow (sapium sebiferum) causes large-scale ecosystem modification throughout the southeastern u. S. By replacing native vegetation. It quickly becomes the dominant plant in disturbed vacant lots, abandoned agricultural land, natural wet prairies, and bottomland forests. Once established, chinese tallow is virtually impossible to eliminate. "
USDA Heat Zones (days above 86ºF):
  • 90 to 120 days ZONE 8
  • 120 to 150 days ZONE 9
  • 150 to 180 days ZONE 10
Seed photo: 0
Seed Label: 0
Located in: Seed Photos
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