The Tung Tree

Tung Tree in BlossomThe word ‘Tung’ is Chinese for heart and refers the the heart shaped leaves of the tung tree. The leaves are glossy and dark green.

The tung tree grows quickly. It begins to yield a crop from its third year, and approaches full production from year five onwards. The tree lives for about 30 years and can grow up to 10 metres tall. The crown of the tree develops horizontally and has dense green foliage. The bark of the tree is smooth and grey.

As well as tung oil, the tung nut tree has other uses. The bark of the tree can be utilised to make rubber, and the nutshells can be used to make activated charcoal.

The fruit of the tung tree is usually called a nut, although technically it is not. It is about the size of a tomato. The fruits grow in clusters, each yielding four or five nuts.

Each nut contains three to five seeds which are similar in size and shape to a brazil nut. It is from these seeds that the oil is extracted. Each seed yields about 20% oil.  When ripe, the nuts fall from the tree and are collected on the ground.