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Sapium sebiferum

Previously known as:

  • Croton sebiferum
  • Sapium sebiferum
Phonetic Spelling
SAP-ee-um seb-EE-fer-um
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

Chinese popcorn tree is a rapidly growing deciduous tree in the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family native to Asia.  Being a member of the spurge famliy, all parts of the plant emit a mikly white sap when damaged. This aggressive tree is weedy in disturbed areas and has escaped and naturalized across the coastal areas southeast making it an invasive plant. 

This tree is highly adaptable and will grow in a wide range of conditions.  It prefers moist soils and full sun and will grow quickly to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide outcompeting many native plants.  Areas with insufficient rainfall seem to keep it from spreading rapidly.  

The flowers are moneceious, long yellow-green catkins and are followed by fruits that split open to reveal white seeds that resemble popcorn, hence the common name.  Another common name, Chinese tallow tree, comes from the use of the seed to make an oil or vegetable tallow.  The leaves turn and attractive bright red in the fall.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  This tree root suckers easily.  This is an invasive plant and alternatives should be considered.  Please see suggestions in the left hand column.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#invasive#poisonous#weedy#high maintenance#fast growing#aggressive#poisonous fruits#Braham Arboretum#flowers late spring#deciduous tree#flowers early summer#white fruits#fruits early fall#salt intolerant#contact dermatitis#fruits late summer#flowers mid-spring#suckering
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#invasive#poisonous#weedy#high maintenance#fast growing#aggressive#poisonous fruits#Braham Arboretum#flowers late spring#deciduous tree#flowers early summer#white fruits#fruits early fall#salt intolerant#contact dermatitis#fruits late summer#flowers mid-spring#suckering
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sapium
    Species:
    sebiferum
    Family:
    Euphorbiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used in candles, soaps, and cosmetics in China and Japan. The seeds are used to make oil, or vegetable tallow. The wood is used in furniture making.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Japan and central China
    Distribution:
    introduced to NC, SC, GA, FL, LA, MS, AL, AR, TX, and CA
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds are attracted to the oil in the seeds and disperse them.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Abundant, showy 3 partedcapsule 1/2" to 3/4" long and 3/4" wide matures from green to brown almost black. The capsule splits open to show 3 white waxy coated globose seeds. The seeds ripen in late summer to early fall persist and resemble popped corn, hence the common name.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    8 inch long drooping catkins of separate male and female greeb-ish yellow flowers on the end of branches from April to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Rhomboidal
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, diamond to ovate shaped with a tapering base and long pointed tip 1-3 inches long 1/2-3 inches wide. Margins are entire, 2 glands at the top of the petioles. Red fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    White
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Gray to white-gray with vertical cracks and ridges gnarled appearance
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Messy
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin and eye irritation. Causes only low toxicity if unripe fruit is eaten, skin irritation minor or lasting only for a few minutes.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Possibly diterpene esters
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Sap/Juice