This plant gets its common name from the oil in its seeds, which is used as a drying agent in paints and varnishesand was also used to lubricate jet engines in World War II. Native to central Asia, the tree grows quickly to 1520 feet tall and wide, with broadly rounded form. Dark green leaves to 6 inches across turn orange and red in fall. Small, tubular, pinkish white flowers with darker markings appear in early spring. These are followed in autumn by large (2- to 3 inches-wide) nuts that change from green to reddish to brownish black as they mature. All plant parts are toxic, but the nuts are especially poisonous; they can be lethal if eaten.
Tung-oil tree self-sows prolifically and is naturalized throughout much of the Lower and Coastal South. It is seldom grown as an ornamental, since the nuts make a mess when they fall. Formerly known as Aleurites fordii.