Chinese tallow tree or popcorn tree are the common names for the highly invasive Sapium sebiferum or Triadica sebifera tree (Latin names have changed, but both are used). Native to China, it was introduced to the United States in the early 1900s as an attempt to use the oil to produce soap. Short-lived, brittle trees up to 60 feet tall, they produce a copious amount of seeds and can begin reproducing as young as 3 years old. The resulting fruits are white and look like puffed popcorn, thus the common name. Cold winters limit its spread in northern Arkansas, but it has been a problem in the southern part of the state.
Some mysteries are easy to solve. We tend to get the same questions over and over.
In late summer, Arkansans often send us some weird seed pods to identify. They are prized by craft folks who like to use these seed pods from a weed whose common name is Unicorn plant or Devil’s claw — Proboscidea louisianica. The flowers are actually quite nice, but you probably don’t want the plant in your garden.
Beautyberry and French mul-berry are the common names for Callicarpa americana, a wonderful native shrub for the garden. It thrives in full sun to moderate shade. This deciduous plant has small pale purple blooms in the summer that are not showy, but the resulting berries put on a real show come fall. The plants are covered in show-stopping, bright purple berries from early fall through frost. While purple is the most common form, there are pale lavender- and white-berried forms as well.
Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) is a native perennial wildflower that occurs in moist woods and streambanks. It produces trumpet shaped, upward facing blooms that are red on the outside and yellow on the inside. It does best with morning sun and afternoon shade. It is a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies.
It is worth noting that not all noxious weeds appear to be weeds at all. Many of the weeds mentioned on this list can actually be pleasant in appearance. Many have pretty flowers or look more like a garden plant than something that will poison your horse. Many of our most problematic weeds were actually brought here intentionally by early settlers of this land to be planted in gardens and flower beds. The State has designated these plants as noxious weeds because they are invasive, not native, and toxic. That being said, there are also many detrimental native species that you should also consider trying to control. It is because they are native though that they cannot be put officially on the designated weed list. This is not a complete list of all the Noxious Weeds in Montana. It is a list of the ones we find commonly in Southwest Montana. For a complete list you can go to your County Weed District for a booklet. Please use this list to identify possible problem plants on your property. If you are unsure on any species you might have or have identified a certain species and would like to discuss control options please don’t hesitate to call for free estimates and consultation.