Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera)

Also known as: Chinese Tallow, Chinese tallowood

Chinese tallow tree is deciduous ornamental tree. It is fast becoming an invasive environmental weed of water courses and native vegetation areas.


How does this weed affect you?

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.

What does it look like?

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.


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • rough
  • grey
  • furrows run from top to bottom

Where is it found?

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.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Chinese tallow tree during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2022)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

  • Estimated distribution of Chinese tallow tree in NSW (Map: NSW Noxious Weed Local Control Authorities, 2010)
    Map shows weed distribution and density estimated by local council weeds officers in 2010.

How does it 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.

What type of environment does it grow in?

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.


Written by Rachele Osmond.


Clarence Valley Council (2013) Chinese tallow tree control sheet. Available at  

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

Ensbey, R (2011) Noxious and environmental weed control handbook. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange. Available at

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

North Coast Weeds (2011) Chinese tallow tree. Available at

Weed watch (2013) Chinese tallow tree. Available at:

More information

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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 should 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

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

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
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/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump application: Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm. Stem inject application for trees: Make a series of cuts 15-20 mm deep around the trunk using an axe or saw. Space cuts evenly with no more than a 20-40 mm gap between them. Apply a 5 mm layer of gel over the lower surface of the cut.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council and Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to

Reviewed 2021