Euphorbiaceae (spurge family) Triadica

Triadica sebifera Chinese tallow tree

Sapium sebiferum (syn.)
Fall color, fruit capsules, and spent inflorescence of Triadica sebifera outside Kimball Hall. Sairus Patel, 3 Dec 2017
Leaf of Triadica sebifera showing pair of glands at base of leaf blade, Rains Houses. Robert Siegel, 23 Nov 2019

A very attractive deciduous tree with good red fall color. The 4 to 10 inch-long racemes bear tiny yellowish green flowers, pistillate ones in the lower part and staminate in the upper, or staminate flowers throughout the raceme. These 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.

Triadica sebifera branchlet with leaves and fruit capsules. From Trees of Stanford and Environs, Ronald Bracewell

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 little 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. Seven specimens are in the courtyard behind the northwest corner of the Outer Quad. A younger tree at the entrance to the old Ginzton Laboratory on Via Palou was strikingly beautiful in the fall; it was removed in the early 2010s when that building came down to make way for the Shriram Center.

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). Details of raceme composition, Ginzton removal, Outer Quad tree count, light edits May 2019 by Sairus Patel.