Sapium sebiferum (L.) Roxb.

Half hardy small tree, similar to a Poplar, with pointed, ovate leaves, often turning brilliant red in autumn, and slender racemes of greenish-yellow flowers. The waxy coat of the seeds is used to make candles in China.  To 12m.  [RHSD, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced to Britain in 1703.  [JD].  ‘Is now very common about Calcutta, where, in the course of a few years it is become one of the most common trees.  It is in flower and fruit most part of the year. […] In Bengal it is only considered as an ornamental tree; the sebaceous produce of its seeds is not in sufficient quantity, nor its qualities so valuable as to render it an object worthy of cultivation.  Cocoa-nut oil is better for the lamp, and it is only during very cool weather that this substance becomes firm; at all other times it is in a thick, brownish, fluid state, and soon becomes rancid.  Such is my opinion of the famous vegetable tallow of China.’  [Roxburgh FI vol.3 p.693/1832].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.949/1843].


Published Feb 20, 2010 - 02:48 PM | Last updated Jul 18, 2010 - 03:37 PM

More details about Sapium sebiferum (L.) Roxb.
Family Euphorbiaceae
Region of origin


  • Stillingia sebifera Michx.
  • Croton sebiferum L.
  • Triadica sinensis Lour.
  • Stillingfleetia sebifera Boj.
Common Name

Chinese tallow tree, Vegetable tallow tree

Name in the Camden Park Record

Stillingia sebifera - Chinese tallow tree

Confidence level high