Fl. Cochinch. 2: 541, 586. 1790.
Trees, monoecious [dioecious]; hairs unbranched or 2-fid; latex whitish or reddish (often not apparent). Leaves deciduous [persistent], alternate, simple; stipules present, caducous; petiole present, glands present at apex; blade unlobed or palmately lobed, margins entire, laminar glands absent or present in sinuses of lobes; venation palmate. Inflorescences bisexual (cymules staminate or bisexual, pistillate flower central, staminate lateral) [unisexual], terminal, paniclelike thyrses; glands subtending each bract 0. Pedicels present. Staminate flowers: sepals 2(–3), valvate, connate basally; petals 5(–6), distinct, white or pink; nectary extrastaminal, 5(–6) glands; stamens (7–)8–12(–14), in 2 whorls, connate into androphore, outer whorl connate basally, inner whorl longer and connate proximally to much of length; pistillode absent. Pistillate flowers: sepals 2(–3), connate basally; petals 5(–6), distinct, white or pink; nectary 5(–6) glands (often inconspicuous); pistil [3–]4(–5)-carpellate; styles [3–]4(–5), distinct or connate basally, 2-fid. Fruits capsules, tardily dehiscent. Seeds obovoid [subglobose]; caruncle absent. x = 11.
Introduced; e Asia, introduced also in Africa, Australia.
Species 3 (1 in the flora).
The seeds of all three species of Vernicia are pressed for oil, which is used in the production of varnish and high quality paints; of these the tung-oil tree (V. fordii) is the most important commercially. Vernicia montana Loureiro is sometimes cultivated in the southeastern United States, but is not known to be naturalized there. It may be distinguished from V. fordii by its persistent leaves with stalked, cup-shaped glands at the petiole apex and blades mostly 3-lobed; fruits with distinct grooves and ridges; and inflorescences mostly unisexual.
Species of Vernicia previously have been included within Aleurites J. R. Forster & G. Forster, but the two genera are now considered distinct and closely related (H. K. Airy Shaw 1967; W. Stuppy et al. 1999). Aleurites may be distinguished by its stellate hairs, 2(–3)-locular ovary, fleshy indehiscent fruit, and 17–32 stamens (versus simple or 2-fid hairs, 3–5-locular ovary, dehiscent fruits, and 7–14 stamens in Vernicia). Aleurites moluccanus (Linnaeus) Willdenow (candlenut or Indian walnut) is occasionally cultivated in Florida and rarely escapes locally, but does not appear to be naturalized there.