Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did Ben Franklin bring invasive tallow tree to Texas?

I was reading an article in the Houston Chronicle this morning by Kathy Huber, Gardening in Houston. You might be interested in reading her article Did Ben Franklin bring invasive tallow tree to Texas?

Founding Father Ben Franklin introduced the Chinese tallow tree to this country. But we can’t blame him for the exotic’s invasion — and destruction – of coastal prairie from Florida to Texas.

Science has cleared his name.

Genetic tests on Chinese tallow trees from the United States and China prove the statesman did not import the tallows overrunning habitats along the Gulf Coast. Rice University’s Evan Siemann, co-author of a study in the July issue of the American Journal of Botany, says descendants of Franklin’s trees remain in a few thousand square miles of coastal plain in northern Georgia and southern South Carolina. The majority of troublemakers are linked to seeds brought to this country by federal biologists in the early 1900s.

Franklin, who also introduced soybeans and kale, had no clue of the huge tallow problems ahead. He sent tallow seeds to a farmer friend in Georgia in 1772 to be grown as a cash crop. The waxy white tallow that coats each seed is used to make a cooking oil, soap and candles.

In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture planted tallows in Texas to study their commercial use. In 1949, thousands more were planted along the Gulf as a possible oilseed crop.

Read the rest of the article for more information. Although after reading the article, I still feel that he is probably partially responsible! What do you all think?

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