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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - November 18, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Native trees with beautiful fall foliage
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, This fall I have been seeing a tree with beautiful red leaves all over Austin and someone told me that these are Chinese tallow trees. Can you tell me where I might buy one of these trees? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Triadica sebifera (syn. Sapium sebiferum), Chinese tallow, a native of China and Japan, does produce beautiful fall foliage; but, unfortunately, it is considered very invasive, and is listed right up there with the worst invasives such as hydrilla, kudzu, and tamarisk by Texas and other government entities.  You can read an article, Chinese Tallow Tree Invades Texas Prairies, to learn about current research on the reason for its invasiveness and research on how to control it. So, obviously, we would not recommend purchasing and/or planting this tree.

If you would like to have a tree with beautiful red fall foliage, Mr. Smarty Plants can recommend several native trees (of various sizes) that will fill the bill spectacularly:

Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple)

Rhus lanceolata (prairie sumac)

Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree)

Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak)

Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak)

Viburnum rufidulum (rusty blackhaw)

Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash)


Acer grandidentatum

Rhus lanceolata

Cotinus obovatus

Quercus buckleyi

Quercus shumardii

Viburnum rufidulum

Fraxinus texensis

 

 

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