Triadica sebifera (syn. Sapium sebiferum)
Chinese tallow tree
A very attractive deciduous tree with good red fall color. The tiny yellowish green monoecious flowers are arranged in 4 to 10 inch-long racemes that cover the tree in midsummer in a handsome but restrained display. Leaves are about 2 inches long resembling poplar leaves plus a long tapered point; they dangle on long stalks in the same way. At the point of attachment of leaf to stalk two raised glands can be seen and there are two small stipules and a bud at the other end of the stalk. The seed capsules have a thin green skin that can be scraped off with a fingernail to reveal a pale green nut with six fine ridges on its surface and three white, ¼-inch seeds inside. Tallow trees are widely grown in the tropics, where their seed yields vegetable tallow used for candles, soap, and oil. Mysteriously, campus seed capsules have no tallow.
Two mature specimens are at the eastern dead-end of Esplanada Way; there are 17 on the west and 20 on the east side of Kimball Hall, Escondido Road. A younger tree at the entrance to Ginzton Laboratory on Via Palou is strikingly beautiful in the fall. Several specimens are in the courtyard behind the northwest corner of the Outer Quad.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Minor edits, scientific name updated to T. sebifera Jan 2018 (SP).