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Forestry Commission asks public to Stop the Pop

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

The Mississippi Forestry Commission is asking for the public’s help to Stop the Pop and report sightings of Chinese tallow, or popcorn trees.

Popcorn trees spread like wildfire, overtaking native vegetation, damaging wildlife habitats, and destroying nature’s balance. They have distinct heart-shaped leaves, dangling yellow flowers, and fruit that appears similar to popcorn. Popcorn trees are deceptive, they look attractive and ornamental – but are actually highly invasive and will quickly damage the native ecosystem wherever they are planted.

The MFC has been working for the past year to get a full picture of Mississippi’s popcorn tree problem by using crowd-sourcing data which has been submitted to the U.S. Forest Service to help Mississippi with the issue.

“Chinese tallow (popcorn) trees are non-native invasive species that grow and spread incredibly fast; they have the potential to overgrow entire forests, altering light availability for native species and changing the native ecosystem,” said Todd Matthews, Urban Forestry and Forest Health Coordinator. “Prevention is an important control tactic for popcorn trees. Landowners are encouraged to remove fully grown trees and seedlings from their property. If possible, seedlings should be removed before they reach maturity. In the absence of proper land management practices, popcorn trees will out-compete (kill) native plant species. Transforming native habitats into monospecific (single species) forests that consist only of popcorn trees.”

Matthews added that fallen leaves also contain toxins that create unfavorable soil conditions and alter light availability for native plant species. Popcorn trees are known to have toxic properties. Sheep and goats sometimes eat the leaves of popcorn trees without issue, however, they are toxic to cattle.

The MFC has received assistance for cities/ municipalities to control popcorn trees. Securing assistance for popcorn tree control on private lands is currently in progress. At this time, the MFC is taking applications from municipalities statewide to assist with popcorn tree control, the second step of our Help Stop the Pop program.

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