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Author Topic: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)  (Read 4431 times)

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Offline Tom

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The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« on: November 13, 2005, 03:13:39 pm »
An invasive import the Chinese Tallow is a pretty tree and will show up in yards even after warnings of its invasiveness.    In N. Florida it can be found on every fence row and along side most every ditch or low spot in pasture.  It forms thickets so thick that nothing will grow beneath the canopy. 

It is one of the few trees that will guarantee color in the fall, in my yard.

The seeds begin as a green Garbonzo Bean looking berry about the size of a thumbnail.  As Fall approaches the husk turns brown and opens to show a brilliant white coated seed, hence "Popcorn Tree".  As the seed matures, the white coating turns black and is spread by birds.

It is a quick growing tree that is usually found to be 20 feet tall with a rounded canopy. Sometimes older trees can be found with a trunk girth of several feet, a height of 40 feet and a canopy covering as much as 50 feet in diameter.


Here is a Chinese Tallow beside my driveway showing off its Fall colors and a Ghost hung in it for Halloween.


A closer view of the trunk, leaves and a few seeds.


A better picture of why it is called the "Popcorn Tree".  See the husk?

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Offline Ernie

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2005, 03:37:41 pm »
Tom

Looks good enough to eat ;D

From the name Tallow, I wonder what the timber is like and if it would be ground durable. :P :P
A very wise man once told me . Grand children are great, we should have had them first

Offline Tom

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2005, 03:58:15 pm »
The wood is susceptible to rot and wouldn't make a gound-contact timber without treating.   It makes a right pretty bowl though.  I've not noticed the wood to contain an inordinate amount of oil.

The seed is full of oil.  I suspect that is where the "tallow" part of the name came from.  It will burn like a candle.  I've posted this story before but here is a bit of it again.

A fellow (professor I'm told) in Hawaii who was looking for a way to use cane fields that were no longer profitable, proposed that Chinese Tallow be planted.  His figures showed that enough oil could be generated from the seeds to send all of the aircraft back to their mainland originations by using Chinese Tallow Oil rather than importing oil by ship.

Whether he was correct or not, I don't know. But, it directed me toward an experiment.  I drove a pin into a Chinese Tallow seed and held a match to the seed.   The seed began to exude vapors which burned.  It burned like a candle or oil lamp.   I was amazed that the flame persisted for about a minute before the fibrous part of the seed began to burn.  When it finally went out, it had burned for over a minute and had left me with nothing but a piece of carbon about 1/8 th of its original size.   The oil burned cleanly.  The fibrous part of the seed produced a thin line of black smoke.  ......the needle got hotter'n hades.  The first time, I had to throw it down.  The second time, I was smarter and stuck it into a piece of wood.  :D

I think the guy was onto something. 
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Online SwampDonkey

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2005, 03:59:40 pm »
That's cool Tom, now all I need is my favorite movie. ;D :)

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Offline Riles

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2005, 04:01:25 pm »
According to the Audubon Guide, the tallow refers to making candles by boiling the fruit. The trees wouldn't make much lumber at all, the trees don't get very big and the form is terrible. The trunk seems to have a tendency to twist. Fence posts would be about all you could get out of it, if it were durable.

All the instructors in the forestry program so far have bad mouthed it mercilessly, yet we have one of the largest ones I've ever seen right outside the classroom door. A few more are scattered across the grounds outside. It's the seedlings that are everywhere.
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Offline Ernie

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2005, 04:18:09 pm »
Bio-diesel??
A very wise man once told me . Grand children are great, we should have had them first

Offline Tom

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2005, 04:32:02 pm »
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Online SwampDonkey

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2005, 04:52:38 pm »
The trees wouldn't make much lumber at all, the trees don't get very big and the form is terrible. The trunk seems to have a tendency to twist. Fence posts would be about all you could get out of it, if it were durable.

Most people would say that about staghorn sumac. No, your not going to turn out lumber from it, but someone could use it for something. A good friend of mine who passed away a few years ago got a piece of sumac that was about 6 inched wide and 3 or 4 feet long. It must of been the mother plant, it was growing in the middle of some smaller suckers. Anyway, he took and sliced the piece into short boards on his bandsaw (not mill) and he made jewlery boxes. The wood is similar to butternut, sure fooled me. I even took him some pin cherry which he had milled and he made stuff from that too. Pin cherry is considered junk too. ;D I have a few large ones in the back yard I leave for the cedar wax wings. They aren't in very good shape now, but the crowns of the trees have no dieback yet. I remember swinging the tractor bucket by one and rubbed the outer bark clean of it , about a foot wide. It mostly healed up and there's only a mark about 2 inches wide where the scar is. Another species is striped maple, just a large shrub, yet some of that Kodak photo paper your graduation pictures are on came from striped maple pulpwood. All be it in minute quantities. ;D

Now I suppose some wisenheimer is going to tell me they used Fuji photo paper.  ::) :D :D :D ;D

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
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Offline Riles

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2005, 07:52:10 pm »
I'm always conflicted when it comes to exotic species. The vast majority are harmless (plant and animal) and they're where they are because somebody wanted them there. My gut feeling is that if they're proliferating, they're entitled to it. That's mother nature filling a niche, even if it's at a native's expense. No environment is stable, they all change over time anyway (big opening here for global warming rant). Wildlife is enjoying the tallow seeds, otherwise it wouldn't be spreading, so it has value somehow.

House cats, both feral and pets, kill songbirds. Tallow trees outcompete some natives. Do we get rid of the cats and the tallow trees or do we make the songbirds and native trees fight for their right to party? CAN you get rid of the cats and the tallow trees? People with warm fuzzy thoughts about cute animals in nature have a skewed perspective. Why can't you get kittens from the humane society to feed your python? If the snake did it naturally, it'd be OK...
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Offline Tom

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Re: The Popcorn Tree (Chinese tallow)
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2005, 08:42:07 pm »
The problem with aggressive invasives is that they do take over.  The argument isn't that they are capable, it's that they are changing an environment that we like, may depend upon, may be culturing and we deem their attack as threatening.  We are the top of the food chain, so to speak, and can make those distinctions whereas a more minor species might not.

The problem with most of these invasives is that other humans initiated the disruption without concern, whether intentional or accidental, for the well being of that part of the environment that would become stressed.  Examples are Melaleuca taking over the everglades and destroying the plant life where it takes root as well as the animal nurseries that were once on that spot.  Africanized Honey bees not only are taking honey off of the shelf as a food but are destroying the European honey bee population (also imported) that has proved to be a provider of honey as well as a pollinator of crops.  Large constrictor snakes like pythons and Boas have no redeemable place in the Everglades and threaten to be a predator of wild game, domestic pets and human children, as well as perhaps incapacitated adults.
 
Paulownia, even with the possibility of its positive uses has become a weed tree along with Mimosa, Kudzu and some others, endangering crop lands and causing increased budgets for right-of-way control.   Bamboo, while not necessarily an import, has been planted by some homeowners as noise breaks and the uncontrollable plant ended up invading all of the neighbors yards and destroying septic systems and foundations.

We can't look upon plant life nor animals considered to be lower on the "food chain" than we, as entities that deserve to make their way in the world unchallenged and uncontrolled.  Lions and tigers and wolves would be a real threat to us humans if we and they decided that we should all co-exist in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and other metropolitan areas.   They may prosper because the young of the human species is vulnerable to predators like that.  We as humans probably wouldn't like it.    Someone who turned animals like that loose in a city would, more than likely, face criminal charges.

It seems to be real easy for Environmental Wackos to pick and choose which of these bandwagons to ride without looking at the picture from a standpoint of being King of the Hill on this planet.  The destruction of natural wildlife anywhere isn't always the answer or the right thing to do but the introduction of a destructive species into an incompatible environment is eventually going to be detrimental to the human species.

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