About the Tung Tree

桐油

 

A "Tung Tree" is a straight and fast growing tree, with long petioles, and palmate or round leaves. It produces a light and soft wood. The most common tung tree in Taiwan is known as the Tung oil tree (Aleurites Montana Lour.). It is a tall species, and makes up more than 90 percent of Taiwanese Tung's. It also the most common flowering Tung.

Tung oil is an important raw material for paint. Tung oil is also used on Meinong paper umbrellas to enhance their resistance to water. Furniture, clogs, toothpicks and matches are commonly made from Tung wood. Nowadays, Tung oil demand has been on the decline, but the Tung tree is still one of most characteristic species in the Hakka region. The Aleurites Montana [family Euphorbiaceae], has a long productive life span. However, the scattered Aluerites fordii Hemsi has a shorter lifespan in which the seeds can be harvested to extract oil. The Aluerites fordii Hemsi can be harvested after it is three years old. Its leaf's basal glands are shaped like two bowls. Its fruit has a smooth surface, which is why it is also known as the "smooth tung".  The Aleurites Montana has two goblet-like glands at the base, and its fruit surface is wrinkly, giving it the name "wrinkled Tung"

Although the trees are originally from China's Yangtze River region, Tung Oil trees were widely planted in Taiwan starting around the time of the Japanese occupation.  At that time, Japanese viewed tung oil as important economically, and widely encouraged farmers to grow this variety. The most planted areas in Taiwan are Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli, which are inhabited by Hakka people, and the Central Mountain area. Other plantings include the Tucheng region of Taipei, Shenkeng, Shihting, Daxi Longtan of Taoyuan, Emei Cyonglin of Hsinchu, Nanzhuang Sanyi  of Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Nantou, and Yunlin.