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Re: ChineseTallow (a rant from the exotic plants police)

On Wed, 1 Jan 2003 Snowbirdspring@aol.com wrote:

> An interesting site the past 3 mornings and all through the day are the many
> Yellow Rumps eating Chinese Tallow berries in my yard in Meggett, SC
> (Charleston, County).  There are as many as 30 covering the tree.  The top is
> now stripped of the berries as they work their way down.

THis is NOT a good thing! The Chinese Tallow Tree, also known as the
Popcorn Tree, is an ecological menace. If you have one in your yard, you
should have it removed AT ONCE! This species is a *major* pest in Texas,
where it is spreading into grassland habitats rapidly and accelerating the
extinction of the Attwater's Prairie Chicken as it goes, as well as many
other grassland bird species. It is also invading virgin forests in the
Big Thicket of east Texas, and in north Florida is impacting both old-
growth forests and grasslands like Paynes Prairie. It is a particular
threat to wetlands because it can grow in wet places, turning grassy
marshes into forests.

People get the mistaken impression that plants like Chinese Tallow,
Privet/Ligustrum, Russian- and Autumn-Olives, and so on are good for birds
because birds eat the berries. Unfortunately, the berries are eaten by
birds which are already common, like Robins, Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens,
Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and so on. Meanwhile, rare and
declining bird species like Henslow's Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, and Black
Rail are endangered by Tallow Trees which turn the grasslands and marshes
they need into forests. Research has shown that Tallow Trees provide less
insect food for birds, especially caterpillars, than do many native trees
like oak, hackberry, holly, etc. (see the first website below), so we
cannot even hope for forest bird species to benefit. Even those bird
species that eat tallow berries must have insects to feed their young!

I did not realize tallows had reached the Carolinas until I ran into a
large infestation of it while visiting my wife's cousins near Beaufort,
SC. THese trees should be exterminated now while it can still be done
relatively cheaply, and mostly around inhabited areas. Efforts are
underway now in Texas and Florida, but they waited too long; it's taking
many years and a great deal of money which otherwise could go to other
environmental problems. The more invasive plants we destroy ourselves, and
convince our neighbors to do the same, the easier and cheaper it will be
to control them on public lands and private nature preserves.

For further details on this nasty weed, see:

So kill all your local Tallow (or Popcorn) Trees today! The birds will
thank you for it.

Joshua S. Rose
Duke University
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)