Tungoil Tree

Vernicia fordii

This species is a small to medium size (40’ tall) deciduous tree native to China and Vietnam that was brought into the U.S. in the early 1900s to create plantations for the production of tung oil from its seeds. Tung oil is used in the manufacture of lacquers, varnishes, polishes, greases, and other products. This tree is widespread in Louisiana woodlands with mesic soils, but most abundant in the Florida Parishes. It is classified by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a Tier I invasive species defined as “currently causing severe or widespread negative impacts on wildlife or natural communities in Louisiana”.

The entire plant is toxic, but especially the fruits and seeds. One seed can be fatal to humans. Tungoil Tree is spread to new locations primarily by water- and animal-dispersed seeds; the plant also produces root sprouts. The Tungoil Tree is not a landscaping plant and not sold, but attractive to some for its showy, tulip-shaped flowers in Spring.

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