When the tung tree is flowering
Tung tree inflorescences. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The tung oil tree (Vernicia fordii, formerly called Aleurites fordii) is valued for the oil, extracted from its seeds. Formerly, in China and Taiwan, this oil was used in lamps. Today, it is utilized as an ingredient in paint, varnish, and caulk, and as a finish for furniture and other wood items. After removing gums from the oil, it was also once used as an engine fuel.
In the 1200s, Venetian explorer Marco Polo wrote: “The Chinese take lime and chopped hemp, and these they knead together with a certain wood-oil; and when the three are thoroughly amalgamated they hold like any glue, and with this mixture they paint their ships. The wood-oil is derived from a tree called tong-shu.”
All parts of the tung tree are poisonous, including fruit and seeds. Ingesting the seeds may be fatal, other symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea. Despite the toxic properties of the tree, parts of it were formerly used in traditional medicine.
In Taiwan, in late April or early May, the tung tree displays an abundance of pretty white flowers, and as the species is very common, mountain slopes at lower altitudes may sometimes appear almost white – a sight to behold! Two localities with prominent tung flower display are around Miaoli, and on the slopes east of Puli. The slightest puff of wind makes tung flowers fall from the trees by the hundreds, gradually covering the ground as a delicate white carpet.
In Taiwan, mountain slopes at lower altitudes may sometimes appear almost white from millions of tung tree flowers. – Miaoli. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The filaments may be red or yellow, even in the same inflorescence. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fallen tung flowers cover the ground as a delicate white carpet. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These tung flowers have landed on a fern leaf. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In this picture, falling tung flowers have been caught by a fan-palm leaf. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tung flower, caught in a spider’s web. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
You may create your own little shower of tung flowers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded August 2016)