Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera)

WEED ALERT: REGIONALLY PROHIBITED WEED
If you see this plant contact your council weeds officer, the NSW Invasive Plants & Animals Enquiry Line 1800 680 244 or email weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Profile

Impact

Chinese tallow tree is deciduous ornamental tree. It is fast becoming an invasive environmental weed of water courses and native vegetation areas. Unfortunately it is still widely available from nurseries under its previous scientific name, Sapium sebiferum.

Chinese tallow tree is a fast growing tree that can quickly form dense tickets. Each tree produces thousands of seeds that can remain dormant for many years. It is also able to alter the chemical composition of the soil, enhancing conditions for further seed germination and rapid plant growth. This allows it to replace native species in a relatively short period of time.  

In the USA, Chinese tallow tree has become a serious problem in many states. It is considered one of America’s worst weeds and is described as virtually impossible to eliminate once established.

Distribution

Chinese tallow tree is native to China and has naturalised in Japan, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Europe, Martinique, Sudan and the USA. It has been cultivated for centuries for many purposes such as oil, fuel and dye.

Originally introduced to Australia as an ornamental tree with beautiful coloured foliage. It has been planted in streets and garden in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW). Naturalised populations have now been identified in various locations throughout southeast Queensland. The largest infestation of Chinese tallow tree exists near Casino, NSW. Smaller infestations are evident throughout the North Coast, Central Coast and New England regions of NSW. Localised plants also exist in Victoria.

Chinese tallow tree is still actively promoted by gardening websites as an attractive deciduous tree for warm temperate and sub-tropical climates. Seeds can still be imported into Australia.

Distribution map

Spread

Chinese tallow tree reproduces by seed and root suckers. Seeds are taken by birds to new locations. Mature seed pods float and are carried in floodwater. Pods accumulate along the receding shoreline, releasing their seeds into the soil.

Plants re-shoot from the stump and roots after cutting and burning. Intentional planting of Chinese tallow tree still occurs.

Trees flower in late spring and early summer, with fruits following in late summer to autumn. Both males and female flowers can exist on the same plant, allowing self pollination. Mature trees can produce up to 100 000 seeds per year.

Description

Chinese tallow is a deciduous tree growing to 15 m high, but more commonly reaches heights of 6–10 m. The tree canopy can extend 4–5 m wide with long, drooping branches.

Leaves

  • heart shaped
  • 3–8 cm wide and 3–7 cm long, with a pointed tip
  • smooth edges
  • arranged alternately along the branch
  • attached to the branch by a stalk up to 5 cm long
  • dark green in colour, turning different shades of yellow, orange and red before falling from the tree in autumn
  • two very small glands are located where the leaf and stalk meet

Flowers

  • slender spikes occur at the end of branches
  • 8–14 cm long
  • each flower spike contains many small greenish-yellow flowers

Fruit / seed pod

  • capsule
  • up to 1.2 cm long and 1.4 cm wide
  • green when young, turning black when mature
  • splits into three sections, exposing 3 seeds per fruit

Seeds

  • whitish in colour
  • covered in a chalky coating
  • pea-shaped
  • 7–8 mm long and 5–7 mm wide

Bark

  • rough
  • grey
  • furrows run from top to bottom

Habitat

Chinese tallow tree is able to grow in a variety of habitats ranging from full sun to part shade. It prefers sub-tropical climates and also grows well in temperate areas that experience warm winters.

Preferring wet areas, it will flourish in places such as the edge of rivers, lakes, streams and swamps. It still grows well in drier conditions, including roadsides and disturbed areas. Chinese tallow tree is drought and flood tolerant.

Acknowledgements

Written by Rachele Osmond.

References

Clarence Valley Council (2013) Chinese tallow tree control sheet. Available at http://www.clarence.nsw.gov.au/cp_content/resources/Chinese_Tallow__2013.pdf  

Crayn DM (2014) Triadica sebifera (L.) Small in PlantNET – - The Plant Information Network System of The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia. Available at http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Ensbey, R (2011) Noxious and environmental weed control handbook. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange. Available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/weeds/publications/noxious-enviro-weed-control

Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK.

North Coast Weeds (2011) Chinese tallow tree. Available at http://www.northcoastweeds.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Chinese_Tallow_Nov_2011.pdf

Weed watch (2013) Chinese tallow tree. Available at: http://www.technigro.com.au/documents/Chinese%20Tallow%20Tree.pdf

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Control

Chinese tallow tree has a milky sap that is toxic to humans. Always wear protective clothing when treating plants.

Manual control

Small plants and seedlings can be manually removed. Roots must be fully removed using this method as trees can quickly regenerate from root suckers. Manual removal is best conducted when the ground is soft and plants are easier to remove without breaking the root.

Herbicide control

Best methods of herbicide treatment are with cut stump or stem injection application. This can be applied at any time of the year. Always monitor control efforts. Treat any shoots that have re-generated from the stump.

Trees treated with herbicide can make the foliage more attractive to stock. Remove livestock from treated areas to avoid possible poisoning.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L with Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
Rate: Tank mix of 1:1.5 of glyphosate plus 1 g of metsulfuron-methyl in 1 L of water
Comments: Stem injection method.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm .
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Legal requirements

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Noxious Weeds (Weed Control) Order 2014 published in the NSW Government Gazette, detailing weeds declared noxious in New South Wales, Australia, under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. The Order lists the weed names, the control class and the control requirements for each species declared in a Local Control Authority area.

Area Class Legal requirements
Bellingen 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Clarence Valley 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Coffs Harbour 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Glen Innes Severn 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Kempsey 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Mid-Coast 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Nambucca 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
New England Tablelands County Council 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Port Macquarie-Hastings 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Rous County Council 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Tenterfield 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant

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Reviewed 2014