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Tallow Tree Horror

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Tallow trees have long-lived weeds that can lurk in the soild just waiting for a disturbed environment to give them the conditions they need to take over.

Twenty years ago I went to a Southeastern invasive species conference. While chatting with a forest manager from Louisiana, I first heard about the horror of the popcorn or tallow tree. He described that after cutting timber on several hundred acres, he and the property owner left certain desirable trees to produce seed and reestablish the forest. When they returned the following spring and saw a carpet of small green trees, they were thrilled. But their joy was short lived. Rather than select native hardwoods, the entire forest floor was covered with tallow trees whose long-lived seeds had been waiting in the soil for just such a disturbance that gave them the right environmental conditions to sprout. Only the extensive use of approved herbicides and hand replanting with select seedlings allowed this property to return to a managed timber land condition

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.