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How to Get Rid of a Popcorn Tree

The Chinese tallow tree is commonly called the popcorn tree for the shape and color of its flowers. Initially planted for its attractive ornamental qualities, it is now considered an invasive species by the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Popcorn trees have extremely deep tap roots that can sustain them through drought. They can also grow in swampy and salty areas, making them a threat to wetlands and grasslands alike. A mature popcorn tree can produce up to 100,000 seeds per year.

Cut down popcorn trees before October, when seeds begin to ripen and disperse. Determine the diameter of the trunk. If it is 4 inches or less, you can guide the fall of the tree with your hand. If it's larger, make sure nothing is in the way of its fall.

Use a pruning saw or long-handled pruning shears for popcorn trees with trunks smaller than 4 inches in diameter. Use a hatchet, ax or chainsaw for larger trees.

Cut the fallen popcorn tree's branches and trunk into stackable lengths for chipping into mulch, or drying for firewood. Rake up fallen fruit and twigs and dispose of them in yard waste bags. Chop the stump down as close to the soil line as possible.

Paint the outer 2 inches of the top of large popcorn trees stumps with a 20 percent solution of triclopyr herbicide mixed with oil. It is not necessary to paint the entire top, just that outer cambium layer. This will prevent resprouting. Spray smaller stumps with the same solution in a spray bottle, being careful to avoid spraying other plants.

Pull any volunteer seedlings, or seedlings that come up on their own, as you see them over the next few years. Repeat mowing will also take care of any sprouts that come up.


Popcorn trees are aided by a wide variety of birds that eat their seeds and disperse them in droppings. It's important to get rid of the tree before seeds ripen.


Always follow instructions carefully when using triclopyr or any herbicide. Overuse can damage the environment, especially when used near water.

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