Alternative common names:
Japanese wax tree, Japanese tallow tree, sumac, poison sumac.
The wax tree is a deciduous tree growing up to 10m in height. It flowers in July and the seeds ripen from September to November. The flowers are dioecious, which means that individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is found on any one plant, so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. The flowers are pollinated by bees.
Where does this species come from?Indian subcontinent, eastern Asia.
What is its invasive status in South Africa?NEMBA Category 1b.
Where in South Africa is it a problem?KwaZulu-Natal.
How does it spread?Dispersal is mostly aided by animals (particularly birds) that eat the fruit and deposit the intact seeds elsewhere. It is also occasionally spread through the sale of plants at nurseries and markets, as well as by seeds in dumped garden waste or contaminated soil.
Why is it a problem?
It is an irritant that causes severe allergic reactions, rashes, sores and general disability. The whole plant is poisonous.
What does it look like?
Leaves: Initially bright or dark green above and slightly grey underneath.
Flowers: Creamy white, creamy yellow or yellow-green, borne in large clusters containing separate male and female flowers.
Fruit/seeds: Papery fruit that turns from green to pale brown or blackish as it ripens.
Does the plant have any uses?
It is an ornamental garden tree. Birds eat the fruits.