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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.

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

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Sunday - May 07, 2006

From: Vienna, Austria, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Propagation
Title: Sapindus drummondii or Rhus aromatica for Austria
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Hy! I'm from Austria/Europe, and interested in some North American native plants specially. It would be great if you can help me with my two questions: Sapindus drummondii I read from different sources that it should be hardy to zone 6A. Is this true? And does it apply in general or just for northern origins? Do you know a seed source for Sapindus drummondii from regions with cold winters? Rhus aromatica: There are female and male plants, right? Can they be indentified before they reach blooming age? Sap.drummondii and Rhus aromatica: At what age do they bloom first? Thanks for this great service!

ANSWER:

As a representative of an organization dedicated to the promotion of native plants, I should first caution you that plants introduced into new regions have the potential to become invasives that over time could crowd out plants native to your region. Soapberry trees, for instance, tend to form groves once they become established, and sumacs have berries that many birds love, potentially causing them to spread far beyond their original planting site.

Western Soapberry, now known as Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, is hardy to Zone 6A, reaching as far north as the southern half of Kansas and southwestern Missouri. Only those individuals from the northernmost reaches of the plant's range are likely to be able to withstand Zone 6 temperatures. For seed sources, go to our National Suppliers Directory's Seed Companies feature and enter Kansas or Missouri as the state or province. A list of potential seed sources will appear for you to contact.

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica) does tend to have male and female flowers on separate plants, but the growers I contacted said they know of no way to identify gender on plants too young to flower.

Both plants should bloom in their second or third year, though this varies by region and local environment.
 

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