Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) Family
Chinese Tallowtree is also known as Popcorn Tree, Florida Aspen, Chicken Tree, Gray Popcorn Tree and Candleberry Tree.
Plant is an upright small naturalized tree with a short trunk, several large week branches that spread into an irregular crown. Preferred habitat is sandy soils along the coast, streams, and near towns. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
Leaves are long and wide, nearly four-sided or rounded; long pointed, no teeth or with a few scattered teeth; hairless; long slender leaf stalks. Shiny green above and paler beneath. Turns red and gold in autumn.
Flowers are in long yellow-green catkins; male flowers are numerous and in narrow clusters while female flowers are few and at the base of the flower stalk. Flowers occur in the spring.
Fruit is a berry, slightly three-lobed, three-celled and dark brown. At maturity the husk splits exposing a white waxy seed. Seeds remain attached.
Tallowtree is a native of China that has naturalized from North Carolina to northern Florida and west to SE Texas; usually near sea level. This ornamental is planted for its poplar-like leaves that turn red and yellow in autumn. The Latin species name refers to the Chinese custom of making candles by boiling the fruit to remove the wax. An oil is extracted from the seed.