Is this not the ugliest tree you’ve ever seen?
No, not that graceful river birch in the background. I’m referring to that wiry thing in the foreground.
It’s my newly planted tallow tree. I had been searching for one for months – ever since Norm and I moved to Dream Tree Bayou earlier this year.
I said to the gardener at the nursery, “Do you have any tallow trees?”
“No, ma’am. We don’t carry trash trees,” she answered.
Gasp! Did she really just call my beloved tree a trash tree? Seriously, there is no such thing as a trash tree. That’s like calling a child, or an animal, or any other being “trash.” There is simply no such thing.
There is dignity and worth in every living being. Except for roaches. There is no discernible value in a roach, especially those giant flying ones that we call “palmetto bugs” down here. I hate those things. I know – hate is a strong word, but I do believe they like to torment us lesser beings on purpose.
Like the time I was a teen and one was flying around my bedroom. I screeched in horror, calling out to my step-dad. “Dale! Hurry! There’s a roach! Help me!” I lost sight of him (the roach), so I jumped on the bed lest he find me on the floor. Roaches have a knack for finding you.
Dale came running dutifully, as he always did, though a tad exasperated with the women in the house always freaking out over roaches. “Just swat him, for crying out loud. He’s just a roach!” Dale looked around. “Where did he go?”
I started to panic. “I don’t know! I don’t know!” Suddenly, I felt a scratching sensation on my knee. It was the blasted palmetto bug crawling around on my bare leg! I screamed and convulsed until the frightened insect flew off of me. Dale swatted wildly until he killed the beast with his bare hand. Beowulf himself could not have performed more nobly. My dad. My hero.
So anyway, tallow trees are not roaches. They have value.
You see, Gentle Readers, we don’t get “fall colors” down here in the Bayou State. Foliage is green. Foliage turns brown. Done.
Except for the tallow tree. It graces our vista with crimson, and burnt orange, fiery yellow and muted browns as summer says its annual goodnight. I longed for a tallow tree in my yard.
I practically begged the gardener to get me a tallow tree. She asked, “You know they’ll take over, don’t you? You sure you want one?”
“Oh yes! That’s my plan – let them have the land that nature intended for them. Plus I won’t have so much to mow.”
“Ok. I’ll see if I can find one for you.”
She found two of them. So now I have two tallow trees, and I am hoping that in a few short years I will have dozens more.
Let’s look forward to autumn now, shall we? No, I won’t hurry summer (and my life) away by wishing for the future. I’m just dreaming. That’s easy to do here on Dream Tree Bayou.
Have a wonderful Labor Day, y’all, and enjoy what’s left of summer! ♥
El Guapo said:
Happy end of summer to you and your brand new tree!
So does it stay looking that wiry, or does the trunk widen as it grows?
The trunk will get big and fat. These (it seems) were pruned in this odd fashion to grow this way and that. I don’t know why the nurser did it that way. ❤
p.s. Why are they called ‘tallow’ trees?? Inquiring minds want to know . . . 😉 ~ L
I’m not positive, but I think it may be because it is (was?) used to make wax. Maybe it resembles tallow? It’s actually native to Asia, but it does quite nicely here. ❤
Oil: Chinese tallow tree seeds are a source of
vegetable tallow, a drying oil, and protein food. The
tree is also planted for ornamental purposes. The
outer covering of the seeds contains solid fat known
as Chinese vegetable tallow and the kernels produce
a drying oil called Stillingia oil. Candles, soap, cloth
dressing, and fuel are made from the tallow. The oil
is used in machine oils, as a crude lamp oil, and in
making varnishes and paints, because of its quickdrying properties. Also, the oil reportedly is used in
Chinese medicine, but overdoses probably would
cause violent sickness and perhaps death (Duke
1983). After the seeds have been processed, the
residual cakes are used as manure. http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_trse6.pdf from: : USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Louisiana State University-Plant Science
Also in same article: Chinese tallow is the most successful exotic invader
of the chenier woodlands in southwestern Louisiana.
Stacy, I couldn’t believe you called this gorgeous tree ‘ugly’! Look at the character in that trunk (both those trunks, actually). I love trees like that; well, I love all things gnarly, twisted, crumpled and odd . . . so I was glad to hear you are planning to let them spread and multiply. Do they have seeds? I wonder if they would grow on the coast of BC . . . some day . . . I’m sure they wouldn’t like it here in the frozen north (well, it’s not frozen today, actually it’s been in the high 80s F; but I just know the white stuff, along with the ice and -30C weather, is a-comin’ along soon . . .) ~ Linne
I do stand corrected, Linne – that tree has character! Here is to cooler weather with lots of color. ❤
I love how you defend your noble little Tallow trees! I wish more people thought like you do! Here it is the same, there is one tree they call a ‘trash’ tree – the Vine Maple. But that little tree has the prettiest fall colors in the whole forest! I made sure that when we cleared the land, they left the Vine Maple (and most everything they didn’t have to take). I hope you do have a forest of Tallow trees one day, giving you beautiful fall color! Hugs, xoxo
My wish is that a lot of the cleared land around our house goes back to nature. We’ve already left an acre alone to see what it will do. ❤
Claire Chisolm said:
Ah darlin girl… that is SOME CROOKED tree you got growing in your yard! LOL I will be planting trees and roses before too long, but for now I am just enjoying the little assortment of planters I transferred from our apartment landing to the front of the townhouse. There is such a sense of peace that comes over me each time I turn the key in the front door of that place. So much so that I am not even particularly minding the moving process!
We do have some Sapium sebiferum or Common Names: Chinese tallow, popcorn tree in our garden. BUT read this: WARNING
The USDA reports that: “Chinese tallow causes large-scale ecosystem modification throughout the southeastern U.S. by replacing native vegetation. It quickly becomes the dominant plant in disturbed vacant lots, abandoned agricultural land, natural wet prairies, and bottomland forests. Once established, Chinese tallow is virtually impossible to eliminate.”
Being both microbiologists we know how devastating this can become if things in nature get out of hand. You are risking for creating a ‘mono culture’ for your area. It will not be contained to your garden as the wind, birds and insects do help spread them too. Just read here: http://www.floridata.com/ref/s/sapi_seb.cfm
It is said that Benjamin Franklin introduced Chinese tallow into the United States in 1776. Since then it has escaped from cultivation and is now an extremely invasive weed in much of the lower southeast and is currently expanding its range west and north through Texas and North Carolina. It is also considered a weed in Australia.
It may have worked for this Chinese tallow for being an ornamental in its original habitat, within China but it is extremely invasive. We try to keep certain trees under control as much as possible.
We have photos from its waxy berries, taken in October of 2011.
So we wish you good luck and for fall color there are plenty of others, why not go for the Southern Sugar Maple – Louisiana Super Plant, Fall 2011: http://bit.ly/171IVJd
Southern sugar maple is a medium-spreading tree that provides reliable fall color, even in south Louisiana. The trees appear to “fire-up” as the leaves turn yellow-orange to scarlet in the fall.
This maple is an under-used native tree. For beautiful fall color, plant this Louisiana Super Plant in your landscape.
That way you really do add color to your garden.
Hugs to you,
Hi! Today must be “tree day”! Happy to meet you. 🙂
“Trash trees”?! How rude! But I’m glad she found two Tallow Trees for you Stacy. I would like to find a Japanese Maple tree to plant in my garden for the same reason you wanted the Tallow tree, for the colour of the leaves in autumn. We don’t get autumn colours here either, the weather is too warm for most trees, so I’m living in hope that I will one day find a Japanese Maple, and once found that it will flourish here and change colour in autumn.
Make sure you give us some updates on your Tallows as they grow. 🙂
I sure will – and let us know if you find a Japanese maple, too. ❤