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Chinese Tallow

Chinese tallow tree is a small to medium sized deciduous tree in the Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) family. It is monoecious, producing male and female flowers on the same plant. As with many species in the Euphorbia family, tallow tree is toxic to animals and humans. The white sap may be a skin irritant. It is native to China and Japan where the waxy outer covering of the seed it is used for machine oil, soap making, fuel oil, and many other uses.

Chinese tallow tree can reach a height of 15 meters at maturity.. The leaf surface is glabrous with smooth margins and prominent venation. The leaf stalks are 2-5 cm long with two prominent glands just below the leaf. Leaves are placed alternately on the stem. The terminal flowers are in greenish-yellow spike-like bundles. The staminate (male) flowers occur in fascicles of 3-15 on the upper portion of the flower. The solitary pistillate (female) flowers are on pedicels at the base of the spike.  The three seeds per capsule are round, white, and gin & distribution:

Origin and Distribution

Chinese tallow tree is native to China and Japan. It was introduced into the United States in the 1700s in South Carolina. It was distributed in the Gulf Coast in the 1900s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to establish a soap making industry. Current distribution includes all of the Southeastern United States from Texas to Florida, North Carolina to Arkansas, and it was recently discovered in California.

Cultivation   The Chinese Tallow tree, which requires a sub-tropical climate, is indigenous to China. It has been introduced to other countries, particularly North India (Godin) .The deciduous Chinese Tallow tree produces two kinds of fat from the same fruit. The outer coating, or mesocarp, covering the seeds yields a solid fat known as Chinese Vegetable Tallow, while the kernels contain a drying oil known as Stillingia oil. The fruit is a three lobed capsule some 15 mm in diameter which opens when ripe and contains the kernel, about the size of a pea, surrounded by the solid fibrous and fatty mesocarp. Its structure allows the separation of the two oils with little contamination one with another. The fruit consists of 27-33% tallowy seed coat, 3641% shell and 29-35% kernel (dry basis). Both the outer seed coat and the kernel are very high in fat 55-78% and 53-64% respectively.


It is estimated that trees planted at a density of 370-395 per ha will produce 1340 kg fruit/ha. An average yield per tree is about 14-22 kg fruits which contain about 40% tallow and oil (Godin). The cake remaining after oil extraction is seldom used for animal feed. (Godin), (Bo Gohl).

removed in the final stage where the hot oil is sparged with carbon dioxide gas (Godin). From the separated fibre Chinese Vegetable tallow is extracted by solvent extraction or expression in cage presses.

The seeds are then crushed and subjected to solvent extraction using hexane. The Stillingia oil released from the seed during this procedure is recovered from the hexane by a vacuum distillation process. Traces of solvent present in the extracted oil are (Source: Hilditch)

Major Fatty Acid Composition Of Oil

Tallow oil

Lauric acid


Myristic acid


Palmitic acid


Stearic acid


Oleic acid


Linoleic acid



  • Rapid Growth Rate
  • Ability to Re-Sprout
  • Drought Tolerance
  • Salt tolerance
  • High Oil Yield for a Given Plot of Land


  • Tallow is toxic to humans and wildlife
  • Tallow leaves and fruit are toxic to cattle
  • Tallow produces tannins that can alter soil chemistry
  • Tallow can limit the establishment of native plant seedlings.
  • Tallow poses a significant threat to the biological diversity
  • High weed risk



 Apart from its use as a biofuel , Tallow oil can also be used to make soap, candles and edible oil .


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