Chinese Tallow


The Chinese tallow tree was brought to the United States over the course of two centuries.  Initially it was brought here because its waxy seed coating was used to make candles but later the colorful tree was promoted as an ornamental.  

In the United States, the exotic tree does not have any natural insect or animal predators and it has rapidly spread over the southeast states and into Texas.  At present, Chinese tallow is the number one invasive plant on the Texas Mid-coast Refuge Complex and it is crowding out the native flora on hundreds of acres of habitat.

When summer begins, the Texas Mid-coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex is well into eradicating the  highly invasive trees on the upland prairies and bottomland forests. Tens of millions of tallow trees inhabit the Texas Gulf Coast and the refuge contains more tallow than will ever be eliminated.  Because of this, eradication operations require a strategic approach to utilize available funding and labor. From spring to mid-summer, the method of eradication is the “cut and spray”  approach.  It entails using a brush axe to notch the bark and spray an herbicide into it. Another approach is to chainsaw the tree to a stump and spray herbicide on it.

Working in conjunction with the refuge fire crew, refuge staff can treat more than 300 trees in less than three hours in important wetlands. On the coastal prairies, tallow prefer upland habitats that are prone to pooling water and their numbers are far beyond the capability of a crew to eradicate. To eliminate the trees on this large of a scale requires the use of aerial herbicide application by a fixed-wing aircraft.

Late summer is the optimal time to aerially spray because trees are stressed from high temperatures and trees are taking in nutrients at a high rate to their roots in anticipation winter dormancy therefore they readily take in the herbicide that is sprayed on their leaves.

When visiting the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, you will notice thousands of standing dead trees. These are tallow trees that were treated and their erradication makes room for the native vegetation that wildlife depends upon to flourish. 

Helpful Information:
Chinese Tallow Tree -- USDA Plant Guide