Invasive or Just Great Fall Foliage

Eddie Powell
Extension Horticulture Faculty
Walton County
732 north 9th street
Defuniak Springs, Fl   32433

With autumn fast approaching, many landowners are looking to add fall color to their landscapes. Unfortunately, many will choose tree varieties based on their fall foliage rather than the possibility of it being an invasive species. One tree that provides beautiful fall color is the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum (L.) also known as the popcorn tree. The Chinese tallow is a fast growing deciduous tree. It can reach heights of 30 feet and its seeds resemble popcorn, so that is where it gets one of its common names. These popcorn shaped seeds, which can be spread by animals, and the root system sprouts make it very hard to control this non-native tree. It has spread to every coastal state from North Carolina to Texas, and as far inland as Arkansas. In Florida it has been found as far south as Tampa. The Chinese tallow was listed in Florida as a noxious weed in 1998, which means that possession with the intent to sell, transport, or plant is illegal in the State of Florida. Unfortunately, this invasive tree is still being found in home landscapes due to its ability to create great shade and beautiful, reddish fall leaves. So even though the Chinese tallow has great fall foliage there are many problems that come along with it. If fall color is important to you, there are many native species to choose from. To read more on how to control Chinese tallow visit

Fall foliage color Photo Credits: Jarnes H. Miller