Group of about 12 species of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs from tropical and subtropical parts of the world; the two described here are both U.S. natives. All of these plants are tough and easy to grow. Saponin, a substance contained in the berries, lathers when mixed with waterhence the common name.
- Zones LS, CS; USDA 8-9.
- Native to the South Atlantic coast, from South Carolina to Florida.
- Grows 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
- Bright green leaves to 14 inches long, each with 7 to 13 lance-shaped leaflets; turn golden in fall.
- Clusters of small white flowers in spring.
sapindus saponaria drummondii(Sapindus drummondii)
- Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
- Native to southwestern U.S. and Mexico.
- Attractive round-headed, spreading tree to 2530 feet tall and eventually as wide, with yellowish green, 10- to 15 inches-long leaves divided into many leaflets.
- In early summer, tiny yellowish white flowers bloom in 8- to 10 inches-long clusters; these are followed by beadlike, 12 inches., orange-yellow fruit that turns black by winter.
- Fall foliage is a lovely orange-yellow.
- Makes a good shade or street tree, thanks to its tolerance for adverse conditions: poor, dry, rocky, alkaline soil; polluted air; wind; occasional drought.
- Fruit drop and self-sown seedlings can cause problems.
- Narrow Leaf has narrower leaves than the species.