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How To Control Tallowtallow

There are a number of invasive trees which can be a bother to some but a desired plant to others. One such tree is tallow, more specifically known as Chinese tallow. To some, these trees are seen as ornamentals and can be pretty to look at, however because of their invasive nature, these trees can quickly takeover a land and can potentially inflict considerable harm to the ecosystem where they are prevalent.

Tallow is a non-native tree that has been around in the United States since the 1700s. Originally from eastern Asia, the Chinese tallow tree brought many benefits to the land such as the waxy coating of the seeds being used for candle and soap making, and the leaves beings used as herbal medicine to treat boils. The trees can grow quite large, up to 25 feet tall and have rhombus shaped leaves and blossom buds which resemble popcorn, earning it the nickname of “Popcorn Tree”.

Tallow trees are notorious for taking over habitats and out-competing other plant life, soaking up most of the nutrition and preventing other plants from thriving.  Infestations of tallow trees have become a problem in rice canals, irrigation systems, drainage ditches, rights-of-way, vacant lots, fence lines, pastures, and rangelands. Tallow trees establish easily, grow quickly, and produce large quantities of seed. Tallow trees resprout quickly from crown and root buds when topgrowth is mechanically removed.

If you have chinese tallow growing on your land and want it gone, Solutions Pest and Lawn can assist you via top-grade control products and providing helpful how-to advice so you could safely and confidently do it yourself.

Browse our tallow treatment products below. If you ever have any questions, reach out to us and we will be happy to assist you. You can reach us via phone, email or online live chat.

How To Control Tallow: 4 Step Solution

Tallow trees are not the easiest tree to get rid of. Because of it’s invasive nature, there is a likely chance that even with applying control measures, the tallow tree can re-emerge. With that being said, we want to make it clear that treatment of tallow trees is not a one-time job.  Tallow produces thousands of seeds that can survive for a long time and can spread by water, birds and animals. A tremendous number of seeds builds up under parent plants. We suggest checking your land regularly to remove seedlings. Here are the steps we suggest to get rid of this plant:

Step 1: Identification - The first step is to identify the plant to be sure that you are indeed dealing with a tallow tree and not some other species of tree. There are herbicides available which can effectively control tallow, while others will be unable so making sure the tree is ID'd correctly is important so you can purchase and use the right herbicide against it.

Chinese tallow can reach up to 20 feet in height and is typically considered a small to medium sized tree, but some trees reach heights of 40 to 50 feet. Chinese tallow grows quickly and has broad ovate leaves that change colors in the fall.

Another feature that can help you pinpoint a tallow tree is the milky sap which comes from its leaves. The waxy tallow derived from the white covering of the seed is how the tree earns its name.

If you are not totally sure, you can always shoot us an email at identification@solutionsstores.com containing a photo of the plant in question and we will ID it properly for you as well as provide control recommendations.

Step 2: Inspection -  Once you have determined the tree is tallow, you should inspect the area to see how big of an issue you have. Tallow is a very invasive species of tree and characteristically outcompete native shrubs and trees in the area like a bully taking lunch money. In this phase, determine how mature and how large the tallow is and then determine which way you should treat the plant.

There are two ways you can go about treating tallow, either via spraying the stems or the leaves. Start with preparing your equipment. We recommend using a pump-up sprayer or a backpack sprayer depending on the number of trees you are dealing with. Sprayers mounted on ATV vehicles also work well.

Step 3: Control - Once you have gathered your equipment, you can then proceed in applying your chosen product to the tallow. Proceed with spraying either the tallow tree stem (which has to be done by cutting the tree down to a stump) or spraying the leaves. We have a number of products which are effective in treating tallow trees, from Triclopyr 4 Brush Killer (Garlon 4) to Remedy.  Whatever you choose depends upon your preference and budget. We also recommend using marking dye to mark plants that have been sprayed.

Timing is important when it comes to treating tallow. The best time for spraying is in April or May after tallow tree leaves have matured, and continue through September or until leaves begin to turn yellow to red. Be sure to adjust the sprayer nozzle to deliver a narrow, cone-shaped mist. As mentioned earlier, tallow treatment is not “one and done”. You’ll need to go over your land regularly to locate and treat unwanted tallow tree seedlings and plants that are missed or only partially damaged by the initial spray treatment.


Step 4: Prevention - If you're successfully able to remove tallow from your property, you don't want it to come back. You can prevent a return by getting rid of seedlings. Seedlings should be regularly checked for presence and pulled by hand before they reach seed-bearing maturity. Another organic preventative measure is to plant a different tree species where the tallow was growing.


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Learn More About Tallow

Chinese Tallow (Sapium Sebiferum) has been in North America for over 200 years and is an aggressive woody invader of marshes and wetlands as well as disturbed habitats. This invasive species is known to detrimentally affect native species, outcompeting them for nutrients and depriving them of what they need for survival. 

Chinese tallow was introduced into the United States initially as a seed oil crop in the 18th century (by Benjamin Franklin surprisingly enough) and then later became a popular ornamental plant due to its colorful foliage it produces in the fall. This popularity ended up being a big mistake because the invader has shown that it has the ability to turn an area where it has been established into a single-species forest.


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Appearance and Habits of Tallow

Chinese tallow grows quickly in a short amount of time and has a milky sap (which you wouldn't want to touch; it is known to cause skin irritation and diarrhea in humans) and may reach heights of 50 feet or more. Tallow spreads by root sprouts and seeds, with birds and water commonly disbursing the seeds. 

Tallow leaves are heart-shaped, have smooth margins, and turn brilliant red, orange, and yellow in the fall. The flowers, which form in early summer, are drooping spikes 4-8 inches long and are attractive to honey bees and other insects.
Green berries begin forming by mid-summer and, when mature in the fall, consist of a cluster of white, wax-coated seeds which may remain on the tree through the winter. In time, the white seeds will be covered with a black fungus. Seeds may develop on trees as young as three years old. 
Insects, diseases, and other natural enemies have little if any impact on Chinese tallow. Cattle and horses will not graze on it. However, it is subject to freeze damage, but it is rare that cold kills the roots. Cold temperatures will prevent this tree from becoming a significant problem in northern portions of its range in the United States. 

Approaching Control of Chinese Tallow Trees

Invasive Chinese tallow trees survive and spread with vigor that can be frustrating if you're trying to restore native species to the land and get rid of invasive pests. Removing the tree isn't impossible but will require a combination of chemical and manual control along with timing and some persistence.


The Earlier The Better

It's best to attack tallow early because a more mature plant will take more effort for control. Seedlings may be pulled when they are very small but hand-pulling is not generally an effective option for controlling established tallow. Chinese tallow rapidly established a deep taproot, making saplings difficult to remove in heavier textured soils.

You can kill and remove small Chinese tallow trees less than 3 feet tall with a shovel and a sa. Cut away the canopy and trunk as close to the soil line as you can get using a small tree saw. With the canopy removes, dig out the roots, getting as much of the pass as possible. When complete, soak your saw and any clippers used in a 10 percent solution of bleach mixed with water for five minutes.

Chemical Control Options

Several herbicides may be used for effective Chinese tallow control. As with any treatment method, it is important to remember that there are no perfect cures and most herbicides will require multiple applications for a complete kill. It is also important to remember that Chinese tallow frequently grows near water or where there is a shallow water table. This may preclude or limit the use of certain herbicides. Additionally, several herbicides listed may cause injury or death to surrounding vegetation. Always read and follow the herbicide label for specific information concerning applications near water and nontarget injury.


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Additional Resources For Tallow 

Tallowtrees | Texas Natural Resources Server


Triadica sebifera – UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants


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