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Vernicia fordii

Previously known as:

  • Aleurites fordii
Phonetic Spelling
al-eh-yoo-REE-teez FOR-dee-eye
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The tung oil tree is native to southern China in the spurge family. It can grow 40 ft tall and has hibiscus-type flowers that are white with red centers that bloom before the leaves appear. It can grow in full sun but also tolerates being an understory tree and is not very cold tolerant.

The seeds of the tung oil tree are rich in unsaturated oils and are harvested to be used in the production of lacquers, varnishes, linoleum, oilcloth, resins, paints, greases, brake-linings, polishing compounds, and artificial leather.  Early in the 1900's, the importation of these oils reached millions of gallons per year.  Due to the high demand for the oils, this tree was brought to the US by Gulf Coast farmers in search of a cash crop. 

By the 1920's, there were over 10,000 acres of tung oil trees being grown along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  The 1940's come along, synthetic resins begin to become an alternative.  Production declined and it was no longer viable as an income-producing crop.  The trees remained and were able to establish themselves in forest edges, rights of ways and urban green spaces.  Its suckering habit has allowed it to flourish and spread.  In FL, GA and AL it is considered an invasive and noxious weed.  

Controlling its growth and spread has proven to be a challenge. Since they can reproduce through suckers, removal of a tree must be complete.  After felling the tree, the remaining stump should be chemically treated immediately after the cutting is done.  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Susceptible to dieback and canker.  All parts of this tree are poisonous, consumption can cause death.  Its leaves can cause a rash similar to poison ivy.  Spreading by suckers, it can become invasive. Please consider planting native trees. A few are listed to the left.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#poisonous#drought tolerant#white flowers#pink flowers#high maintenance#flowering tree#messy#aggressive#evergreen tree#deciduous tree#dendrology#messy fruits#dry soils tolerant#tropical tree#highly poisonous
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#poisonous#drought tolerant#white flowers#pink flowers#high maintenance#flowering tree#messy#aggressive#evergreen tree#deciduous tree#dendrology#messy fruits#dry soils tolerant#tropical tree#highly poisonous
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Vernicia fordii
    Species:
    fordii
    Family:
    Euphorbiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China and Vietnam
    Distribution:
    AL, CA, FL, GA, LA, MS, PR, TX
    Wildlife Value:
    Attractive to bees, who pollinate the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Screening
    Shade
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    2-3" fruits are large, globular, split into segments and contain a single large seed
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are pale pink to white, with red veins. They have 5-7 petals in large clusters and bloom before the leaves emerge. Each flower has 2 green or reddish sepals
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Dark green leaves are alternate, simple, long-stalked, and heart-shaped but may be shallowly 3-lobed. They range from 6" to 10" long and 4-8 inches wide. The petioles are long with 2 conspicuous red glands at the base of each leaf. Both sides may have sparse hairs
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth, thin, brownish gray or green-gray with reddish dots. It exudes a milky white sap when cut.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    C-shaped, Cresent shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Twigs are dark gray-brown with numerous reddish lenticels and circular leaf scars.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Poor Soil
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    One seed can be fatal for an adult. Symptoms may include severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, slowed breathing, and poor reflexes; may be fatal.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Glycoside and phytotoxin
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems