Noteworthy Collections: An Account of Triadica sebifera (L.) Small in Virginia with Comments on Invasiveness and Range Expansion


Douglas A. DeBerry

Additional Authors:

Dakota M. Hunter


Sept 2018


noteworthy collections, invasive, range expansion, triadica sebifera,

Triadica sebifera (L.) Small (EUPHORBIACEAE)— King and Queen County: Virginia Seasonally inundated Nyssa biflora Walt. swamp in backwater zone of a man-made pond near the York River shoreline, approximately 8 km southeast of the Town of West Point (lat: 37.476529; lon: 76.727332). Eight individual saplings were found growing on hummocks among the following associates: N. biflora, Liquidambar styraciflua L., Morella cerifera (L.) Small, Eubotrys racemosus (L.) Nutt., Ilex opaca Aiton var. opaca, Juncus effusus L., Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (L.) C. Presl var. cinnamomeum, Acer rubrum L., Woodwardia areolata (L.) T. Moore, Dulichium arundinaceum (L.) Britton var. arundinaceum, and Cephalanthus occidentalis L. All specimens were relatively young saplings (estimated at 3–5 years), and all were found within an area circumscribed by an approximate 50 m radius; no flowering or fruiting was observed on the collection date (15 July 2016) or on a subsequent site visit (17 September 2016). 15 July 2016, D.A. DeBerry 892. Voucher specimen deposited at the College of William & Mary Herbarium, Williamsburg, Virginia (WILLI 82064).

Significance. This is the first account of Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera (L.) Small) in Virginia and, to the best of our knowledge, the northernmost record of this species in the Atlantic states1 (University of North Carolina Herbarium [NCU] 2017, USDA, NRCS 2017). Chinese tallow tree was introduced to the USA from China in the late 18th century for the economic potential of the fruits in the soap-making industry (DeWalt et al. 2011). Based on correspondence from the time, it is believed that the original populations of this species were introduced by Ben Franklin via shipments of seeds from London to associates in Georgia in the late 1700s (Bell 1966). Although it was held by some that the ‘‘Franklin trees’’ were the source for the genotype that would eventually become a problematic invader in the Gulf Coast states (see discussion under Invasiveness below), recent work has implicated early-1900s US Department of Agriculture (USDA) introductions in Texas as the invasive genotype (DeWalt et al. 2011). The latter trees were being tested as potential oilseed crops, and the planting program was expanded to other Gulf states in the mid-1900s. The original Franklin trees are relegated to a few thousand square miles in northeast Georgia and adjacent South Carolina. As of summer 2016, the US distribution for all genotypes was understood to include 10 states ranging from North Carolina, south to Florida, and west to central Texas, with disjunct occurrences in northern California (USDA, NRCS 2017).