Sure, Benjamin Franklin started the whole Chinese tallow tree thing in the U.S. when he sent a few seeds to friends in Georgia in 1772. But don’t blame him for the great Gulf Coast tallow invasion. Rice professor Evan Siemann and 2 other researchers found that the tallow trees crowding out what’s left of coastal prairie grassland from Florida to East Texas didn’t come from the seeds Franklin sent. The descendants of Franklin’s gift have stuck around an area of northern Georgia and southern South Carolina, according to genetic tests. Other tests traced the problem-causing tallows to seeds brought to the U.S. a little more than 100 years ago, likely from around Shanghai, by federal biologists.
The researchers also brought samples of the these trees back to China, and in controlled tests found the U.S. trees grew and spread much faster than the Chinese trees they descended from.
Video: Rice University