I was searching for an old site in San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park known as the “Tung Nut Depot”. It was associated with the tung oil industry which was well-established in Alachua County by the 1930s. Tung oil is extracted from the ‘nut’ (actually from a seed of the fruit of the tung tree) and is used in the production of paint, varnish, printing ink, linoleum and other products. Tung trees were originally imported from China and cultivated on plantations in the southern United States.
I didn’t have much to go on as far as the location other than it was located in the uplands at the edge of an old field by Sanchez Prairie. That at least gave me a general area to search in but it was still a bit overwhelming. I eventually found the building back in the woods by some mountain bike trails. If you check the trail names you will see one called “Tung Nut Loop” and that will lead you to the general area. The building has a large loading dock, sorting, storage area and an enclosed room. It may date back to the early 1900’s so I was glad to see that it was still in decent condition.
The industry was big in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Until the mid-1900’s when frost ruined a lot of the crops. Plus Argentina could sell oil at lower prices and U.S. producers were operating at a loss. In addition, frosts were decreasing the extent and yields of tung oil groves. Check out this article for some in-depth history.
Tung Nut leaves and seeds are also toxic if eaten. In humans, a single tung nut can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis, respiratory depression, weakness, and possibly death. Effects are gastroenteritis, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, weakness, poor reflexes and dehydration.
I enjoyed this adventure of finding this old depot and learning about the history of the industry associated with it. I also really liked the trails and wilderness at this preserve. It is one of the most scenic places to hike in Florida in my opinion. I find myself visiting the place over and over again. The history you can discover is just an added bonus!