En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 26, 2009

From: Gainesville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Soapberry; monoecious or dioecious?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I have a soapberry (Sapindus saponaria L., I believe) tree growing in my yard. I planted it 3 years ago hoping for soapberries, but have not seen any yet. It has flowered each spring, but has not set fruit. It just occurred to me to worry that I am missing something important to fruit production, such as both sexes. How can I tell? The flowers are just appearing now. What should I be looking for? Thank you.


The soapberry Sapindus saponaria (wingleaf soapberry) is a dioecious species which means that there are individual trees with male (staminate) flowers and trees with female (pistillate) flowers (these are the ones that produce the berries). In your case, you may have a male tree which would explain the lack of berries, but you could have a female tree and there are no male trees nearby to furnish pollen, therefore, no berries. Take a look around your neighborhood to see if there are other soapberry trees in the vicinity and evaluate your chances of getting berries on your tree. Stamens (the parts that produce pollen) are fairly easy to spot in flowers. If your tree has stamens, you ae not going to get berries.

 This website discusses the biological characteristics of the Soapberry, and this previously answered question talks about this problem and gives some good references for further research.

For some help closer to home, contact the Paynes Prairie Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.


More Trees Questions

Moving a red oak away from the house foundation
January 24, 2008 - About a 3 weeks ago I noticed a 5 ft. red oak growing in my flower bed. I hadn't noticed it growing up through my shrubs until the leaves turned bright red. The problem is that its coming up about tw...
view the full question and answer

Opinion of 5 best native garden plants in Oklahoma from Burneyville OK
September 07, 2013 - What would you say are the 3 to 5 BEST native garden plants for south central Oklahoma?
view the full question and answer

Sycamore leaf snowbell from Pleasanton TX
August 18, 2012 - How do you care for a sycamore leaf snowbell. Does it like sun or part shade? How much water? How often and what should it be fed. How fast or slowly does it grow? Anything you can tell me would be ap...
view the full question and answer

What shade trees have non-invasive root systems?
March 03, 2015 - What shade trees have a non-invasive root system? I am in zone 7a. Thank you, Mr. Smarty Plants!
view the full question and answer

Yard Trees for Burleson, TX
July 24, 2011 - We need to replace 2 mature pear trees in our front yard, north side of the house in Burleson, TX. We are looking for faster growing trees that will last for decades that resist disease in clay soil....
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center