Tung Trees in South Mississippi

Come March, the Tung trees in south Mississippi will be blooming. Tung trees were introduced to the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, as an ornamental specimen. For centuries before this in its native Asia, Tung tree were prized for their oil, which is obtained from pressing the seeds of the tree. South Mississippi, with an ideal climate and large expanses of empty land left after the cutting-over of the pine forests, was found to be the ideal location in the United States for the trees to flourish and several large groves for commercial production were planted here beginning the 1920s. Major production of Tung oil in the U.S. occurred between the late 1930s and 1972, peaking in 1958 at 44.8 million pounds. The primary use of Tung oil is used for finishing woodwork. When applied to a raw surface, the oil hardens to protect and add luster to the wood. The remains of many old Tung trees groves can still be seen in Jackson and Pearl River Counties, especially in March, when the trees produce small white flowers with red centers. Later in the summer, before the trees produce seeds, its heart-shaped leaves will grow quite large.  

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