Chinese Tallow tree and Camellia rescue.


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Outside Sacramento, CA
I dug up a Chinese Tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) intertwined with a Camellia bush. They were growing about 2-3 feet from a friends house and had to go. I could not get very much root with either plant and had to take off even more trying to separate them. There were hardly any feeder roots, mostly large tap/anchor roots.
So question one: has anybody had experience with Chinese Tallow trees? I cut it down to a stump and know nothing as to wether it backbuds or even if it will servive such treatment. It has so little root, what are the chances?
The Camellia is in much the same state, very little root, only with more branches/leaves. I still had to hack it back pretty good since there were several broken branches. Plus I figured there wasn't enough root to support all the leaves anyway.
Question 2: should I make a structure and put a clear plastic bag over them, like a mini greenhouse? Since it's winter moisture isn't a problem but would doing so maybe increase the temperature to help healing or am I fooling myself?
Do you have any photos you could share? Specifically, photos of the root structure and photos of the general state of the two plants (i.e. how dormant they are atm in Sacremento).

Without photos, my general advice would be to plant them in the ground in an environment similar to where they were previously growing, and give them a year to recover and push out new roots. Next year you can pull them out of the ground and move them to containers. Otherwise, if you have already moved them to containers and don't want to stick them in the ground again, just keep them protected and out of the sun until Spring when they should be showing fresh growth. They should be mostly (or totally) dormant now, so keeping them warm should not be a requirement. I would stay away from the covered enclosure unless you can also provide air movement within it - closed wet spaces with dormant plants is a recipe for rot. Camellias and azaleas are especially prone to root rot if they sit too wet too long.
If What you call A Tallow Tree is what I called (when I used to live in Biloxi MS) a Popcorn Tree, the yes I've had one or two while I lived down there. The reason for "Popcorn" was the fact that when it went to seed the pod/nut/drupe, would open up like popcorn and shoot out little white seeds. Does the tree you have produce a heart shaped leaf not too similar to the Cercis spp? The points I liked about mine is #1 it was a free weed tree growing in the fence line, (Free is Good). #2 It seemed to take alot of punishment as far as moving and weather (Hurricane Andrew). I'm pretty sure you'll be able to do a little drastic pruning with this material, just not sure if now is the right time for doing just that.
I'll have to look through some old pictures and see if I can find a few of the ones I had.
Have fun with it,,, always try,, new things :)
Best of,,
K Johnson
Zone 5
Wow, this was a dug up oldie post. Yeah, I think they are the same tree. I ended up loosing the camellia. I just don't think I got enough root when I yanked them out of the ground.
Here's a picture of it before it went dormant. I chopped the bigger side to work on getting some taper. They have beautiful fall color but so far it's proving not great for bonsai but free practice is always a good thing.
Mary B.


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Mine and yours seem to be one in the same, at least from your photo. i would say give it some time, the tree will come around to bonsai culture. i lost mine when I moved from the south back home to Illinois. i still have a 19+ yr old live oak still hanging in from that time. i would like to at least go back and get another Tallow tree from there,, maybe one of these days.
Wish you the best,
K Johnson
zone 5
I love tallows and would like to try one as a bonsai. Keep us updated with your likes and dislikes with training these.
I had read that they give off a chemical that may retard the growth of surrounding plants and that's why they are so invasive. Anyone read this?
I had read that they give off a chemical that may retard the growth of surrounding plants and that's why they are so invasive. Anyone read this?

Not sure about this tree but I've learnt the hard way about this process "allelopathy" with a common fern "Bracken" that we have to battle with in our reforestation efforts here in the PN.....
"Bracken fern is known to produce and release allelopathic chemicals, which is an important factor in its ability to dominate other vegetation, particularly in regrowth after fire. Herb and tree seedling growth may be inhibited even after bracken fern is removed, apparently because active plant toxins remain in the soil".
Cheers G
I found it,,,

Hey M.B.
here's my tallow tree,,(albeit small and scraggly) this is one who survived the journey from Biloxi MS to
Illinois. I sure wish I knew then what I know now.:confused:
Best of to yours,


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