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Toxic parts

The sap is poisonous[1].

Edible uses


The wax from the seed is used as a lard substitute or in cacao butter[2][3]. The seed contains 8.1 - 9.2% protein and 40.5 - 50.7% fat[4].

Unknown part


Material uses

The seed is coated with a wax. This wax, which comprises about 24% of the seed[5], can be used to make candles and soap[6][7][8][9][10][11]. It has excellent burning quality, and gives an inodorous clear bright flame[5]. The wax is also used for making soap, cloth dressing and fuel[5]. Pure tallow fat is known in commerce as Pi-yu[5]. The wax is separated from the seed by steeping it in hot water and skimming off the wax as it floats to the surface[12][13]. The wax is solid at temperatures below 40°c[12]. It is said to change grey hair to black[4].

The seed contains about 20% of a drying oil[5]. It is used to make candles and soap[8][12][13]. The oil is used in making varnishes and native paints because of its quick-drying properties[5]. It is also used in machine oils and as a crude lamp oil[5]. The pure oil expressed from the inner part of the seeds is known in commerce as Ting-yu[5]. The residual cake, after the oil is expressed, is used as manure, particularly for tobacco fields[5]. The leaves are rich in tannin[14], a black dye can be obtained by boiling them in alum water[10][12][13][5].The plant is used as a soil binder along the sides of roads and canals[5]. The wood is white, even and close grained, light, soft or moderately hard[13][5]. It is suitable for carving and is also used for making blocks in Chinese printing, furniture making and incense[5].

The wood is light and soft. It is used for fuel[5].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The leaves and the roots are depurative, diuretic and laxative[7][15][14]. A decoction is used in the treatment of oedema, constipation, poisoning by two plants - Polygonum perfoliatum and Tripterygium wilfordii, skin diseases etc[15][4]. The leaves are particularly useful for treating boils[4].

The seed is antidote, emetic, hydragogue and purgative[4]. In China it is taken internally, which is a rather questionable practice considering its toxic nature[4]. The root bark is diuretic[4]. It is used in the treatment of snake bites and skin ulcers[4].

The juice of the tree (the sap is probably meant here[K]) is acrid and vesicant[16].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Earth stabiliser


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - do not cold stratify the seed since this can lead to secondary dormancy. Sown in April in a warm greenhouse, it usually germinates within 4 weeks[17]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Overwinter in a greenhouse for at least their first 2 winters and plant out in late spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Sapium sebiferum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in a sunny position in any well-drained soil[1]. Grows well on canal banks, steep mountain slopes, granite hills and sandy beaches, succeeding in alkaline, saline or acid soils[5]. It is said to thrive in alluvial forests, on low alluvial plains, and on rich leaf-molds, growing best in well-drained clayey-peat soils[5]. Requires the protection of a south or south-west wall when grown in areas at the limits of its hardiness[1]. Favourable climatic conditions are mean air temperatures of 12.5 to 30.1°C, and an annual precipitation from 130 to 370cm[5].

This tree is not reliably hardy in Britain, though it was successfully grown here in the 18th century[8]. It is able to withstand a few degrees of frost, but unripened twigs are particularly susceptible to frost injury[5]. It succeeds outdoors in the milder parts of Britain when grown in a woodland garden[18]. A fast-growing tree[19], it is much cultivated in warm temperate regions for its seeds which are a source of vegetable tallow, a drying oil and protein food[5]. The fruits yield two types of fats - the outer covering of the seeds contains a solid fat with a low iodine value and is known as Chinese Vegetable Tallow whilst the kernels produce a drying oil with high iodine value which is called Stillingia Oil[8][20][5]. Many named varietis have been developed in the Orient, especially in Taiwan, for improved oil production[5]. Plants require from 3 - 8 years to bear, but then continue to bear for an average of 70 - 100 years. They attain their full size in 10 - 12 years[5]. Yields of 14 tonnes of seed per hectare, containing 2.6 tonnes of oil and 2.8 tones of tallow have been achieved[5]. This yield could increase with age[5]. The plant has escaped from cultivation in N. America and has become a serious pest there, displacing native vegetation. It apparently produces root secretions that modify soil chemistry and discourage the establishment of native species[21].

Responds well to coppicing[12].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Sapium sebiferum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Sapium sebiferum.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Sapium sebiferum
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Salinity
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
9 x 5 meters
Flower Colour
Flower Type


  1. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  2. ? 2.02.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
  3. ? 3.03.1 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  4. ? Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
  5. ? Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops - (1983-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  7. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  8. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  9. ? 9.09.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  10. ? Haywood. V. H. Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-217674-9 ()
  11. ? 11.011.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
  12. ? Gamble. J. S. A Manual of Indian Timbers. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh (1972-00-00)
  13. ? Gupta. B. L. Forest Flora of Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur. Forest Research Institute Press (1945-00-00)
  14. ? Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica. Taipei. Southern Materials Centre ()
  15. ? ? A Barefoot Doctors Manual. Running Press ISBN 0-914294-92-X ()
  16. ? 16.016.1 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
  17. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  18. ? Taylor. J. The Milder Garden. Dent (1990-00-00)
  19. ? Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)
  20. ? 20.020.1 Wilson. E. H. Plantae Wilsonae. ()
  21. ? Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J [Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas] Botanical Research Institute, Texas. (1999-00-00)

Facts about "Sapium sebiferum"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyEuphorbiaceae +
Belongs to genusSapium +
Functions asEarth stabiliser +
Has binomial nameSapium sebiferum +
Has common nameVegetable Tallow +
Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
Has edible partUnknown part +
Has edible useOil +
Has environmental toleranceSalinity +
Has fertility typeInsects + and Bees +
Has flowers of typeMonoecious +
Has growth rateVigorous +
Has hardiness zone9 +
Has lifecycle typePerennial +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useDye +, Hair care +, Oil +, Tannin +, Wax +, Wood +, Compost +, Incense + and Fuel +
Has mature height9 +
Has mature width5 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAcrid +, Antidote +, Depurative +, Diuretic +, Emetic +, Hydrogogue +, Laxative +, Purgative +, Skin + and Vesicant +
Has salinity toleranceTolerant +
Has search namesapium sebiferum + and vegetable tallow +
Has shade toleranceNo shade +
Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
Has taxonomy nameSapium sebiferum +
Has water requirementsmoderate +
Is deciduous or evergreenDeciduous +
Is herbaceous or woodyWoody +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
PFAF medicinal use notes migratedNo +
PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
PFAF toxicity notes migratedNo +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
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