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The Insidious Tallow Tree

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

What makes the tallow tree such a successfull invader?

Ben Powell, our state apiculturist and pollinator specialist spoke recently about the dreadfully invasive Triadica sebifera, the tallow or popcorn tree. He told me invasive plants often have several factors in common. They often produce massive numbers of seeds, one tallow tree can produce a hundred thousand seeds. The seeds tend to persist in the seed bank, waiting for disturbance. They have few pests. And these species are often extrememely adapatable to a wide range of environmental conditions. The tallow tree can grow in saline marshes, clay or dry sands and tolerate full sun or shade. In South Carolina, we find extensive monoculture stands of these trees in the lower portion of our state and scattered trees throughout the midlands as well. But the worst infestations occur in what Powell described as the Mississippi valley region, with huge increases often following hurricanes.

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.