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tungoil tree

vernicia

Habit Trees, to 10[–20] m. Trees, monoecious [dioecious]; hairs unbranched or 2-fid; latex whitish or reddish (often not apparent).
Leaves

stipules 4–12 mm;

petiole 6–22 cm, with pair of round, sessile, cushion-shaped glands at apex;

blade broadly ovate or triangular-ovate, 10–25 × 8–20 cm, usually unlobed, sometimes shallowly 3-lobed, base cordate, truncate, or rounded, apex acuminate, both surfaces moderately to sparsely hairy, hairs appressed.

deciduous [persistent], alternate, simple;

stipules present, caducous;

petiole present, glands present at apex;

blade unlobed or palmately lobed, margins entire, laminar glands absent or present in sinuses of lobes;

venation palmate.

Inflorescences

6–15 × 6–20 cm, often branching from near base, branches to 15 cm.

bisexual (cymules staminate or bisexual, pistillate flower central, staminate lateral) [unisexual], terminal, paniclelike thyrses;

glands subtending each bract 0.

Pedicels

1–2 cm.

present.

Staminate flowers

sepals green to purplish, 10–12 mm;

petals white or pale pink with dark pink to red veins proximally, sometimes yellow basally, obovate, 25–35(–40) × 15–20 mm, narrowed at base;

nectary glands awl-shaped to strap-shaped;

stamens in outer whorl 8 mm, in inner whorl 13 mm, connate 1/2–2/3 length.

sepals 2(–3), valvate, connate basally;

petals 5(–6), distinct, white or pink;

nectary extrastaminal, 5(–6) glands;

stamens (7–)8–12(–14), in 2 whorls, connate into androphore, outer whorl connate basally, inner whorl longer and connate proximally to much of length;

pistillode absent.

Pistillate flowers

sepals and petals as in staminate flowers;

ovary hairy.

sepals 2(–3), connate basally;

petals 5(–6), distinct, white or pink;

nectary 5(–6) glands (often inconspicuous);

pistil [3–]4(–5)-carpellate;

styles [3–]4(–5), distinct or connate basally, 2-fid.

Fruits

capsules, tardily dehiscent.

Capsules

subglobose, 4–6 cm diam., smooth, glabrous or glabrate, short stipitate, apex apiculate.

Seeds

2.5–3 × 2 cm, surface warty, ridged.

obovoid [subglobose];

caruncle absent.

x

= 11.

2n

= 22 (China).

Vernicia fordii

Vernicia

Phenology Flowering Mar–Apr; fruiting Apr–Aug.
Habitat Wood and field margins, abandoned fields, roadsides, disturbed woods.
Elevation 0–150 m. [0–500 ft.]
Discussion

Vernicia fordii was cultivated for its seed oil in plantations along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas from the 1920s to the 1960s. Although no longer commercially cultivated in the southeastern United States, it is naturalized there and is now listed as an invasive weed in Florida. All parts of the plant are poisonous; seeds have strong purgative properties and may cause poisoning if eaten.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species 3 (1 in the flora).

The seeds of all three species of Vernicia are pressed for oil, which is used in the production of varnish and high quality paints; of these the tung-oil tree (V. fordii) is the most important commercially. Vernicia montana Loureiro is sometimes cultivated in the southeastern United States, but is not known to be naturalized there. It may be distinguished from V. fordii by its persistent leaves with stalked, cup-shaped glands at the petiole apex and blades mostly 3-lobed; fruits with distinct grooves and ridges; and inflorescences mostly unisexual.

Species of Vernicia previously have been included within Aleurites J. R. Forster & G. Forster, but the two genera are now considered distinct and closely related (H. K. Airy Shaw 1967; W. Stuppy et al. 1999). Aleurites may be distinguished by its stellate hairs, 2(–3)-locular ovary, fleshy indehiscent fruit, and 17–32 stamens (versus simple or 2-fid hairs, 3–5-locular ovary, dehiscent fruits, and 7–14 stamens in Vernicia). Aleurites moluccanus (Linnaeus) Willdenow (candlenut or Indian walnut) is occasionally cultivated in Florida and rarely escapes locally, but does not appear to be naturalized there.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Distribution
from FNA
AL; AR; FL; GA; LA; MS; NC; SC; TX; se Asia [Introduced in North America; introduced also in Australia]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
e Asia [Introduced in North America; introduced also in Africa, Australia]
[BONAP county map]
Parent taxa Euphorbiaceae > Vernicia Euphorbiaceae
Subordinate taxa
Synonyms Aleurites fordii
Name authority (Hemsley) Airy Shaw: Kew Bull. 20: 394. (1967) Loureiro: Fl. Cochinch. 2: 541, 586. (1790)
Source Flora of North America vol. 12, p. 226. Flora of North America vol. 12, p. 225.
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