(Sapium sebiferum), small tree, of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native to China but much cultivated in the tropics for its tallow-producing seeds and elsewhere as an ornamental. The seeds are thickly coated with vegetable tallow from which candles and soap are made. It is a member of a 120-species genus of tropical trees, including S. jenmanii, of Guyana, which is a source of rubber, and S. biloculare, from northern Mexico, which is one of the small trees from which jumping beans come. The butter, or tallow, tree of Sierra Leone is Pentadesma butyracea, of the family Guttiferae (also called Clusiaceae).
Learn more about tallow tree with a free trial on Britannica.com.