Chinese Tallow Tree

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Chinese Tallow Tree


(Sapium sebiferum), a tree of the family Euphorbiaceae. The tree has a height of 8–10 m. The leaves, which are alternate, entire, and rhombic or broadly ovate, are equipped with two glandules on the upper part of the petiole. The flowers are unisexual and apetalous. There is a two-or three-lobed calyx in staminate flowers and a three-partite (or four- or five-partite) calyx in pistillate flowers. The flowers are gathered in apical racemes that consist of several solitary pistillate flowers and numerous staminate flowers arranged in bundles. The seeds are covered with a layer of refractory fat that resembles wax.

The Chinese tallow tree grows in East Asia, from Central China to Taiwan. The coating on the seeds yields vegetable tallow, which is used in the manufacture of candles and soap. The oil obtained from the pressed seeds is used in lacquers and dyes; it is also burned for illumination. The leaves yield a black dye. The Chinese tallow tree is cultivated for commercial purposes, mainly in Asia. In the USSR it is grown as an ornamental in Batumi and Sukhumi (farther north it freezes). The Russian name for the Chinese tallow tree—sal’noe derevo—is sometimes used to designate other tropical trees or shrubs that yield vegetable oils, for example, Pentadesma butiracea of the family Clusiaceae and some species of the families Sapotaceae, Diptero-carpaceae, and Lauraceae.


Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.


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